Supply Lines: An alpine freight route

Supply Lines
Bloomberg

Switzerland has inaugurated its Ceneri tunnel through the Alps, a key part of its strategy to increase cargo shipments by rail and capacity on the axis connecting Rotterdam with Genoa.

The 15.4-kilometer (9-mile) project, costing 3.6 billion francs ($3.95 billion), connects the Italian-speaking towns of Bellinzona and Lugano in the south of the country. It'll have capacity for as many as 170 freight trains and 180 passenger trains a day, part of Switzerland's voter-mandated drive to decrease the numbers of cars and trucks in the Alps.

Coupled with a 57-kilometer tunnel at the base of the Gotthard, further north, the Ceneri allows for time and cost savings by replacing a windy, uphill route with one that's more of a straight shot at a lower elevation.

Conceived years before the pandemic, the underground passage could hardly have arrived at a better time. The global health crisis has disrupted supply chains, particularly trucking routes involving border crossings in Europe.

When the tunnel opens to the public in December, a trip between the banking hubs of Zurich and Milan will be possible in roughly three hours. That's down from nearly four hours a decade ago.

The Swiss decided in the 1990s to reduce transalpine road traffic, in a bid to preserve the environment, but have struggled to achieve that goal. The self-imposed objective of having a maximum of 650,000 trucks crossing the Alps in 2018 didn't get met, though the government says the Swiss are doing better than their neighbors.

Catherine Bosley in Zurich

Charted Territory

The U.S. merchandise trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in September from the prior month's record as imports fell by 0.2% to $201.4 billion and exports increased 2.7% to $122 billion.

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