No federal millions for Gateway Basel Nord for the time being
Setback for Gateway Basel Nord. The federal contribution of CHF 83 million to the controversial major project at the Rhine port in Basel will not be paid out until further notice. The Federal Administrative Court has upheld an appeal against the federal funding decision and rejected the decision by the Federal Department of Transport calling for a reassessment by the department.
In a press release issued in July 2018, the Federal Department of Transport announced that the federal government would contribute CHF 83 million to the cost of the first stage of the controversial new major terminal, Gateway Basel Nord. According to the project initiators, the total cost for this first construction stage – the construction of a new bimodal terminal for container transport on road and rail – would amount to CHF 130 million. In a second step, the facility is to be expanded into a trimodal terminal to include Rhine shipping. In addition to the federal government, the government of the canton of Basel-Stadt has also pledged to contribute a total of CHF 115 million to the cost of the planned Port Basin 3.
However, the entire financing structure is now fundamentally in question. In its decision of 8 October 2019, the Federal Administrative Court upheld Swissterminal AG’s appeal against the federal subsidies for Gateway Basel Nord instructing the Federal Department of Transport to re-evaluate the decision. Swissterminal AG, a private family business active in container handling, fears that the highly subsidised Gateway project will drive it out of the market. “Tax millions donated by the state would tip the balance of equality in the market,” criticises Swissterminal boss Roman Mayer: “If Gateway comes, competition will be gone.”
In its judgment, the Federal Administrative Court criticised the Federal Department for excluding Swissterminal AG from the proceedings and any other companies directly affected by the decision to finance Gateway Basel Nord. Among other things, Swissterminal AG was thus denied the opportunity to comment on the anti-competitive project to be subsidised and the federal government’s investment contributions. Now the Federal Department of Transport must reassess the entire issue and Swissterminal must be appropriately involved in the decision.
Here is why the Gateway project is so controversial:
- Over CHF 200 million in government funds will be used to create massive overcapacities (at roughly the same level of demand).
- This large-scale project subsidised with millions of tax-payers money will destroy the existing private market structures. Private companies will be driven out of the market.
- GBN advocates claims regarding the shift from road to rail and future demand are based on incorrect figures and they are puilling the wool over the public’s eyes.
- GBN would lead to a significant additional burden on the population (additional traffic, air and noise pollution, dangerous goods risk).
- GBN would destroy valuable (and protected) nature reserves and habitats. An important species corridor for the whole of Switzerland, listed in the Federal Inventory of Dry Meadows and Pastures (TWW) and designated as a biotope of national importance, will be lost.
- The existing terminal market, which is decentralised and operated by private companies, has great potential in reserve, which today lies fallow due to lack of demand (keywords: introduction of two- or three-shift operation; technical innovation potential, etc.).