The dream of a new and ambitious mode of freight transportation just took a big leap towards reality in Switzerland.
On August 1st, planning stages commenced to build an automated tunnel network that would ship cargo in shipping pods on a self-charging rail system.
Cargo Sous Terrain (CST), or “Underground Cargo” will begin first with a 46-mile (70 kilometer) stretch between Zurich and a major logistics hub in Härkingen/Niederbipp. It could grow to as much as 310 miles (500 kilometers) and pepper the Swiss cantons with tunnels.
Run on renewable energy, the project is estimated to be able to take 40% of all freight-bearing traffic off the roadways in a sustainable way that doesn’t involve clearing any land for additional roads. The electric pods would receive additional electric charge as they move along the induction rails.
Above, the ceiling would contain a similar set of tracks for containing baskets of smaller parcels.
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In total the tunnels are thought to be around 20 feet in diameter, and the pods big enough for a pallet or two, with refrigerated ones to transit temperature sensitive goods. At the terminals, large elevators will pull the pods and podlets out of the gloom and up into fulfilment centers. Dynamic tracks will prevent the elevator stations jamming the railways of the system.
Federalism is strong in the Swiss governmental structure, and each canton will deal with the project as they wish. However in this time of rapid inflation of money supplies all over Europe, the Swiss have maintained their fiscal discipline, and ruled out using public money for the project.
“No subsidies are being used in building the infrastructure and operating the tunnel,” parliament ruled.
Switzerland’s Federal Council has ruled out co-financing CST with public funds, but thanks to some new legislation from the Swiss government, the company has been armed with US$100 million in private investment that was sourced pre-emptively.
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The project seems very similar to various hyperloop ideas for American passenger transport, but if billions are to be spent, and the Swiss will have to find $35 billion in investment to finish the whole project by 2045, freight seems a much smarter use of underground rails, since to a certain degree, safety, comfort, and aesthetics won’t factor in to the design.
So far, to other Swiss cantons in addition to Zurich have taken interest and called it “economically feasible,” such as St. Gallen and Thurgau.
WATCH The Concept Video From Cargo Sous Terrain
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