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Container transport through subsurface pipelines - feasibility study; final report (Project no. 19G3011A)

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Complete with results
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
Rail icon
Transport policies
Other specified
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

The research consortium “Transport- und Versorgungssysteme unter der Erde. Teilprojekt: Transport von Stückgut durch Rohrleitungen” at RUB has worked on a transport concept for the underground transport of Euro-pallets in the Ruhr area, which is renowned as CargoCap. While presenting the results of this project at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research the question came up whether such a concept could also work for the transport of higher volumes over long distances. A new research project developed, which dealt with the underground transport of overseas shipping containers of up to 45 feet between the ports in the North Sea and the Ruhr area. An interdisciplinary research team from Bochum, Aachen and Hanover examined the issue, which transport volume, speed, transport methods and grid designs are capable of ensuring a relieve of transport on road and rail to such an extent, that savings effects justify
investments in the underground transport of containers.

  • The objective of the study was to develop the system Cargo-Cap Container (CCC), which represents the transfer of the already existing concept CargoCap of regional freight transports in urban areas to long-distance freight transport between important ports in the North Sea to the Ruhr area. It was aimed at increasing the efficiency and safety of freight transport and to reduce the environmental impact. The feasibility of underground freight transports considering operations and law has already been proven during the project Cargo Cap.

Evaluating whether the transfer to long-distance freight transport was possible in terms of transport costs, transport capacity, speed and reliability as well susceptibility and other external factors like the environmental impact involved many different tasks. The main working steps were:

  • Initial transport issue with already existing solution approaches
  • Technological description of the CargoCapContainer concept
  • Embedding the CargoCapContainer concept in the investigated region
  • Operational and economic assessment

Legal aspects and ancillary conditions


Other Programme
Combined transport and turnaround systems
Funding Source
Federal Ministry of Education and Research


It can be concluded that concerning the assumptions about the position and size of the network, the transport volume and the technological basics of the underground transport infrastructure, no sufficient operational success or economic benefit can be achieved to cover the costs. The reasons for this are the high costs of the underground infrastructure and the network routes. The air friction increases a lot underground and leads to higher energy consumptions. This represents not only higher electricity costs but also higher environmental costs. To actually not transport underground could improve the situation.
Also, it has to be mentioned that the underground transport volume would be relatively low in comparision to the investment costs in the transport infrastructure.

Findings of the study are published in detail by a final report (German only) which is available online via


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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