Cargo Sous Terrain: Innovative Underground Freight Transportation Solution

Freight transportation is responsible for a large portion of carbon emissions. With more and more companies focusing on bringing down their carbon footprint, it is no surprise that many new innovative transportation solutions are being developed. One of these developments caught our eye, as they have several elements that are dear to our heart, the most important one being the tunnel system it involves. 

A Swiss company called Cargo Sous Terrain (CST), which translates into Cargo Underground envisions a network of tunnels stretching more than 300 miles through which they want to transport cargo on self-driving pods across Switzerland.

Tunneling Towards a Greener Future

CST’s primary motivation is reducing reliance on trucks for cargo movement. The Swiss road infrastructure is feeling the pressure of the rise in demand for freight transportation. Combined with a shortage of truck drivers, there is a clear need for alternative solutions. CST has calculated that their network of tunnels will lead to a 40% reduction in truck traffic on Swiss roads. More impressively, by utilizing only renewable energy, the system is expected to emit 80% less carbon dioxide per ton of cargo than traditional road transport.

A Network of Innovation

Stretching over 300 miles, the proposed tunnel network will connect Geneva in the west to St. Gallen in the northeast. The project, which has already secured funding of over 100 million euros, is slated for completion by 2045. The first phase, covering a 44-mile stretch between Härkingen-Niederbipp and Zurich, is expected to be operational by 2032.

These tunnels, positioned 130 to 260 feet below ground, will house autonomous pods that can travel at speeds of a little over 18 miles per hour. Each pod has space for two pallets, and refrigerated pods will ensure that chilled goods can also be transported on the CST solution. Lifts will facilitate the movement between the surface and the underground network. Cargo will be loaded and unloaded at designated hubs. The system will facilitate zero-emission inner-city distribution.

Collaboration and Challenges

The success of CST hinges on collaboration. Key partners in this endeavor include tech giant Siemens and major retailers like Coop. However, the project is not without its challenges. Given the network’s span across several administrative regions, securing planning permission is a complex process. Additionally, while much of the required technology for automation and operation already exists, integrating these technologies seamlessly remains a significant hurdle.

A Global Trend

Switzerland’s CST is not an isolated endeavor. Globally, there’s a growing interest in underground freight transport systems. Germany’s Cargo Cap, which the Ruhr University has developed, also focuses on a two-pallet solution that transports freight across longer distances. Smart City Loop in Hamburg is developing an underground system focused on last-mile delivery. Even the Hyperloop system, championed by Elon Musk, has garnered significant attention, with various start-ups worldwide working on transport systems for passengers and freight. 

The CST project embodies the spirit of innovation and the drive toward a more sustainable future. By leveraging the power of tunnels, automation, energy efficiency, and self-driving vehicles, CST is setting a great example of the power of innovative underground transportation.

Images courtesy of Cargo Sous Terrain

About the author:

Martijn Graat

Martijn is Zergratran’s Head of Content. He writes about the latest trends and innovations in logistics and anything related to Zergratran