Switzerland’s Coop and Migros join underground logistics project

A 500km tunnel will be build to help the country deal with its growth in freight traffic

Switzerland could have a new underground logistics and transportation system by 2040 thanks to project backed by the country’s leading co-op retailers.

A new project aims to address the traffic and logistics problems the country is likely to encounter as its population continues to grow. The country’s largest retailers, Coop and Migros are among the backers of the project, which will be developed by a group of private companies.

Cargo Sous Terrain, the company leading the initiative, proposes building a 500km automated tunnel system that will integrate sensor data from pallets and wagons into the overall logistics and delivery mechanisms.

The Swiss Federal Statistical Office estimates freight traffic in the country will increase by more than 35% by 2040. Cargo Sous Terrain aims to address the pressure on the country’s roads by taking the freight that is now being transported on roads in urban areas and moving it underground, creating more space on railways and roads.

The fully automated network will run from Geneva to St Gallen and from Basel to Lucerne, with an additional branch from Bern to Thun, connecting around 80 hubs, where goods can be loaded and unloaded. Once fully completed, CST is expected to reduce freight transport in towns and cities by 30% and save 40% of lorry journeys on motorways.

On 23 January a delegation of CST AG presented its roadmap for the next phase of development of the logistics network to federal councillor Doris Leuthard. The roadmap includes a funding plan of CHF 100 million in equity, comprised of a Swiss majority, to obtain a building permit for the first section from Härkingen to Zurich. According to CST, a number of existing partners intend to increase their share capital once the CST dedicated federal law is in effect.

The project started back in 2014 with a feasibility study. Cargo Sous Terrain was initially registered as a support association. The study was revised in 2016 and the concept was found to be economically viable. As a result, Cargo Sous Terrain became a joint stock company.

The organisation estimates the total construction costs will amount to 33 billion Swiss francs. It plans to conduct the first operational underground transports starting in 2030 by which time the first network from Gäu to Zurich will have been completed. The entire network is schedules to be completed and commissioned by 2045.

The vehicles will be self-driving and have wheels as well as be able to connect themselves into a convoy and also detach themselves from one another. The permissible speed is 30 km/h for freight vehicles in the driving lanes and 60 km/h for the monorail conveyor.

Coop and Migros say their co-operative structure allows them to make long-term investments in the future of Swiss infrastructure.

 “A quick and efficient supply is crucial when it comes to ensuring that our customers can find the products they want in their local shops. We need innovative and environmentally friendly solutions so that we can continue to guarantee this in the future. This is why we have strongly advocated Cargo sous terrain from the very start,” said Joos Sutter, chief executive of Coop Switzerland.

“Even today, we need to think about how we are going to be able to provide a reliable supply of fresh goods for our customers 20 years from now,” says Migros boss Herbert Bolliger.

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