SWISS Federal Railways (SBB) is launching Swiss Cargo Logistics to revitalise its core business of moving freight by rail, looking to provide Switzerland with efficient, automated and sustainable logistics.

SBB says that under its new programme it will be possible to increase freight traffic by 60% from 3.8 billion net tonne-km today to 6.1 billion by 2050.

This would reduce the growth in road freight traffic forecast by 2050 from 22% to 14%, removing one million lorry journeys a year and saving 470GWh of energy and 26,000 tonnes of CO2.

The national operator notes that bulk freight is in constant decline, while movements of lighter, smaller consignments are rising. Freight customers are demanding more flexibility, speed and digitalisation from rail operators, it says, while at the same time seeking more environmentally-friendly, carbon-neutral transport.

To meet these changing market needs, SBB says that new solutions are needed for rail freight.

SBB will make the best use of existing and future infrastructure to provide fast and reliable freight services, with the number of freight paths to be increased - including express paths - and transit times reduced as upgrade projects are completed between 2025 and 2035.

To simplify access to rail and cut transit times, five new intermodal terminals will be built on the key east-west route between St Gallen and Geneva. Between five and eight rail-connected city hubs at strategic locations will serve the construction and waste markets and reduce congestion in towns and cities.

SBB is aiming to have its first high-capacity terminal on the east-west route in service before 2030, and says that existing intermodal terminals and freight depots will continue to be served.

The Swiss Cargo Logistics programme is also based on efficient operating methods adapted to customer needs. SBB says that the costs of its wagonload freight business can no longer be met, but depending on government support it could be developed to form a large-scale network.

The freight revival will see the renewal of the rolling stock fleet through investment in more efficient equipment, as well as automation including automatic brake testing and automatic couplers.

To automate its freight rolling stock fleet by 2040, SBB expects to spend SFr 500m ($US 509.5m).

The investment required for Swiss Cargo Logistics will be met from existing federal government sources and by SBB itself, which says that SFr 1bn will be needed to build its new terminals and city hubs.

SBB will offer third parties non-discriminatory access to its terminals and infrastructure. It is also keen to enter into partnerships with other companies in the logistics sector, including terminal operators.

“With Swiss Cargo Logistics, we are optimising the operation of the railway system for logistics in Switzerland,” says SBB president, Ms Monika Ribar. “We want more rail for more freight.”

“We want to use railway infrastructure, combine rail and road and complete the range of existing freight transport products,” says SBB CEO, Mr Vincent Ducrot. “By 2050, rail will be able to carry 60% more freight, which will relieve pressure on the roads.”