Why small transport projects might be much more important than large infrastructure investment

In Switzerland, planners estimate that there will be a transport capacity shortage in the mid/long term. This is why, alternative modes of transport are analyzed such as the Cargo Sous Terrain (-> see project page).

Today, the federal council announced in this article that they will adapt the regulation so that a project such as the cargo sous terrain can undergo a proper feasibility study, be planned and ultimately be constructed.

In my opinion, the federal council choose the optimal solution by enabling but not financially supporting the project, and this is why:

  • It is necessary to try out new/alternative modes of transport. For tests and ideas, regulation should be flexible, as long as it is save.
  • The project itself does not solve the transport problem, but it could develop new approaches and ideas.

And this is why I think CST is in principle the wrong approach:

  • The transport capacity limiting factor (i.e. the bottle neck) will not be the long distance but the distribution in the suburbs and city center.
  • With far less than the investment of 3.5bn CHF, Switzerland could develop autonomous driving trucks that would drastically increase the capacity on the road on the freeway but also in the suburbs and city centers.
  • The CST changes the mode of transport at least twice (at the entrance of the tunnel/cargo center) and at the exit. Cargo needs to be unloaded/loaded which consumes time, requires energy, resources, etc…
  • The idea to develop infrastructure makes the economy and the transport flow very inflexible. All packages need to go through the gateways/access points of the system. The full advantage of the road, to have dynamic routing and high resilience on a system level is diminished

We will most likely see, that CST is economically not feasible, but it is certainly interesting to evaluate from time to time such projects.

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