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Underground cargo project gets parliamentary go-ahead

model of automated trucks
The futuristic project aims to transport freight across Switzerland in automated, driverless trucks under ground. Keystone

The Swiss parliament has given a final green light to a futuristic underground cargo project that aims to transport freight normally carried by road on a 500-kilometre network of underground tunnels.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted in favour of the enabling legislation after resolving final differences with the Senate, which approved it earlier this year.

The law aims to enable the Underground Cargo project, which is an entirely private venture. “It regulates the conditions for its establishment and operation,” explained Transport Minister Simonetta Sommaruga.

The project, which was launched in 2013 by private interests, is expected to cost between CHF30 billion ($32.6 billion) and CHF35 billion. Responsibility for planning and financing the project will lie with the public limited company Cargo sous terrain (CST).

Cargo sous terrain AG, based in Olten, first presented its vision to connect production and logistics sites with Swiss urban centres ten years ago. The idea is to load pallets or modified refrigerated containers of goods automatically onto electric driverless vehicles at designated “hubs”. The containers are then transferred underground on lifts and onto tracks. The autonomous vehicles carrying the cargo then travel at a constant speed of 30kph to their destination, where the goods are removed and distributed locally.

The completed network should be ready by around 2045. Organisers claim the underground network will dramatically improve transport infrastructure in Switzerland and offer a sustainable, environmentally friendly solution. But critics question the project’s price tag and necessity.

The law passed on Tuesday provides that the majority of the shareholders must remain Swiss throughout the life of the facility. In the event of financial difficulties, Bern will be able to demand guarantees or, in consultation with the cantons, even dismantling or change of use.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR