Customers will be able to reserve slots for collection and delivery at specific times and locations. The aim is to modernise its single wagonload operations to keep pace with current practices in the logistics market.

With the new schedule, handling operations will be spread over 24 hours instead of only at night, and customers will be offered the possibility of more overnight express services. The timetable is designed to have minimal impact on the morning and evening rush-hour passenger traffic. Regular connections will be made between the main shunting yards at Limmattal, Lausanne Triage, Basle, Buchs and Chiasso.

The new scheme was designed over the last two years in cooperation with major customers, who include the cement company Holcim, Feldschlösschen brewery and the road transport company Planzer. At the moment SBB Cargo is market leader for all road/rail transport operations in Switzerland, accounting for 25% and carrying an average of 205,000 tonnes a day.

As well as offering improved services, SBB Cargo expects to improve rolling stock operating efficiency and reduce the number of drivers required. This in turn will help cut expenditure: SBB Cargo recorded a loss of CHF 22m ($US 22.25m) last year as a result of the weak Euro, but CEO Mr Nicholas Perrin is confident that figures will be better this year.

“We are facing the biggest change in schedule in the company’s history,” Perrin says. “Rail is at the moment relatively dumb, but this is changing with the introduction of innovations such as asset intelligence, mobile devices, automation in shunting yards, automatic brake tests, predictive maintenance, automatic coupling and wayside technology. We are working on all of these facettes.”