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Concerns raised over Swiss underground freight plans

The CEO of Cargo sous terrain stands in front of one of his company's posters.
The CEO of Cargo sous terrain, Peter Sutterlueti, at an event in April. Keystone/Michael Buholzer

Swiss plans for the large-scale underground transport of goods are “fundamentally innovative”, but problems remain, said participants at a public event.

Locations for loading points for the privately-funded “Cargo sous terrain” (CST) project have notably raised concerns, and planners want to make improvements. 

The first CST section is to run from Zurich Airport through Zurich, Urdorf (canton Zurich), Spreitenbach (Aargau) and Suhr (Aargau) before arriving in Härkingen (Solothurn); eleven access points or hubs are planned. Municipalities and regional organisations in the affected cantons had until Friday to comment on the corresponding sectoral plan. 

+ Future freight: Swiss mega-project slowly picks up speed

Criticism from Zurich 

Zurich has criticised current plans for the location of the three city hubs. There are conflicts with residential neighbourhoods at two of the locations, while the third would be well connected by road and rail, but the protection of the groundwater speaks against it, said authorities. The city government also noted that the underground freight traffic would not significantly reduce above-ground traffic. 

CST planners disagree; in a press release, they pointed to a study by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) showing that the network could significantly reduce above-ground lorry traffic by 5,200 kilometres per day in Zurich by 2050 – thanks to the bundling of journeys and fewer empty runs. The planners also wish to adapt the hub locations, they stated.

More lorries feared 

Meanwhile the municipal authorities in planned hub location Urdorf say they do not want to support the project if there are no accompanying measures to combat traffic and noise. These are absolutely necessary for the protection of residential areas, the authority wrote in an Internet post. 

The municipality of Spreitenbach (Aargau) agrees with the objectives and principles for the planning and realisation of the project. However, it fears additional lorry traffic due to the hub destined for its territory. According to the municipality, neither a direct connection to the planned regional train terminal nor a connection to the motorway network are provided for in the plans. 

Finally, planning association Aarau Regio has demanded traffic modelling measures for the hub in Suhr (Aargau). According to its statement published online, the association is also calling for attention to be paid to groundwater supplies, which must be guaranteed without restriction, it wrote. 

Planners seeking dialogue 

Initial adjustments to the project are already underway, the CST planners wrote. In addition, an in-depth discussion on the traffic relief provided by the tunnel freight transport system is planned. They said they are seeking discussions with the municipalities along the first section of the route. 

According to the CST, the portion of the route between the cities of Zurich and Härkingen is around 70 kilometres long. Construction, software, hubs and vehicles for this section are expected to cost CHF3.6 billion ($3.9 billion), according to current estimates. The complete CST network stretching from Lake Constance to Lake Geneva is due to be completed by 2045. 

Adapted from German by DeepL/kc,dos

This news story has been written and carefully fact-checked by an external editorial team. At SWI swissinfo.ch we select the most relevant news for an international audience and use automatic translation tools such as DeepL to translate it into English. Providing you with automatically translated news gives us the time to write more in-depth articles. 

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