Basel Nord becoming a reality
After one study is before the next study. With the conclusion of the government’s mediation process, the decision in favour of the trimodal Basel Nord terminal has now been taken. SBB Cargo is in charge of planning the details, including practical aspects and the involvement of third parties. For the ITJ, Christian Doepgen spoke to Martin Haller, who is SBB Cargo’s man in charge of the project.
Mr Haller, is the mandate to plan the Basel Nord terminal a Greek gift?
I would not quite put it that way. But we’re under a lot of pressure to create a good working environment for the future of Switzerland’s rather complex terminal environment, there’s no doubt about that. Responsibility lies not only with SBB Cargo, but also with our partner Port of Switzerland, the operator of the Swiss inland ports on the Rhine, with whom we have formed a planning consortium.
Swiss terminal operators want to be in on the project. How do they apply for such a role?
The question of partnerships is very important. We said clearly from the outset that we’ll welcome partners, with know-how more important to us than capital. We’re already talking to many interested parties. It’s important to define the roles of all the stakeholders in a transparent way. The Basel Nord hub needs to be manageable and it must operate without discriminating against anyone.
What expertise are you looking for?
A wide range. There are individual issues, such as empty container management or integrating overland traffic. Ultimately it is about the entire supply chain. We’re developing a trimodal terminal, after all.
What role does volume forecasts play? Various figures have circulated...
For me the consensus about the forecast volumes was one of the important agreements that came out of the mediation process. 1–2% growth over the average economic growth rate gives us a realistic framework for capacity planning. It’s a known fact that the Limmattal Gateway terminal is now going to be re-evaluated on account of the results of the needs assessment that was carried out.
Some people have complained that there is no business plan for the terminal on the table yet.
The business plan will depend on the choice of investors, and they haven’t been determined yet. It will also depend on the quality of services in the terminal, as well as on coordination with shippers. This is sensitive information that will be communicated by the operator at the end of the negotiations.
What are the next negotiations that Basel Nord is set to conduct?
As previously announced, we’re forming five working groups, one for each mode of transport, as well as one each on the subjects markets and empty container management. All the stakeholders who participated in the mediation process will be involved. The associations are currently selecting their representatives. I expect there to be five contact persons in each field. This is where our preliminary work is now paying off.
When will the working groups get into action?
We want to start work in February and want two to three meetings to have been held by each group by the end of April.
What is the further schedule?
We first have to finalise the partnership concept, which also guarantees freedom from discrimination. Then we will define the physical design of the terminal. We’re aiming to initiate the planning approval procedure in the fourth quarter of 2014. After detailed planning is complete we’ll begin construction activities in 2015. We want to commence operations on the first railtracks in December 2016.
These are ambitious milestones.
The plan is ambitious but achievable. The tenor of the mediation process was – don’t hesitate for too long! We’re sticking to this and are developing more services in parallel, for example direct connections from Basel to various destinations.
Some critics are unhappy with SBB Cargo as the patron of the project.
SBB Cargo acquired the land for this project when no one was talking about Basel Nord yet. We collaborated on the pre-project phase. The project did not emerge all of its own, as some observers seem to believe.
What do you mean?
It is overly narrow to look only at the terminal environment in Switzerland. International competition is not between terminals, but rather between supply chains. For Basel Nord to be successful we have to adopt an intercontinental perspective. This is also true for hinterland traffic.
The ITJ will publish more interviews with stake-holders in the Basel Nord hub in future issues.