Investing in concrete or intelligence

This fall, the Swiss transport authority (Bundesamt für Verkehr -BAV) announced the plans to invest heavily in railway infrastructure until 2035. Over 200 Projects and 11.5 bn CHF will be invested in tunnels, concrete and steel across the country.

Last Sunday, an NZZ article (in German) has allowed  an alternative view on the intended infrastructure investments by its critics. In particular one point I want to mention here: When investing in infrastructure, there are always profiteers. In particular the construction industry as well as politicians that can celebrate openings of new infrastructure and use the investments for political gains in votes from the respective regions.

My criticism goes in a slightly different direction since I believe that the underlining prognosis and the utilization of this prognosis in inherently flawed. The prognosis models that we use nowadays do not account for any jump functions when switching between different modes of transport but build on an “at par” increase to the increase of mobility demand overall. To make a prognosis over the next 50 years is always difficult, this is why the models used for such prognosis should be fully publicized and made available online so that everybody interested can play with the models. To build excess reserves based on such limited models for several billions appears to be not in the interest of the country or its people.

On the implementation side, we need to rethink where we want to invest how much. To create intelligent mobility solutions by more smart communication means, yield management and more IPRs owned by the railway infrastructure provider can not only create similar increases in excess capacity (respectively a more even distribution over the day) while reducing investment costs in the short, mid and long term. It seems that this approach would be pareto optimal to the chosen approach by the BAV.

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