In the past few days, various media sources reported that the Boring Company, which Elon Musk founded five years ago, has developed a tunnel concept with single or double lane configurations for the transport of containers using battery-powered freight vehicles. The idea of using above-ground or underground tunnel or pipeline-like systems to transport units, such as containers, is not new. Since the 1990s, many projects have looked into similar unit transport systems, particularly in Japan and northwest Europe.
Ports have been on the radar: for example, some 15 years ago PortEconomics co-director Theo Notteboom participated at the research team of Prof. Em. Willy Winkelmans at the University of Antwerp and developed an underground concept to transport containers from the Deurganckdock (left bank of the river Scheldt) to the Delwaidedock (right bank, now Bevrijdingsdock).
Part of the findings of that study Underground Logistics Systems: A Way to Cope with Growing Internal Container Traffic in the Port of Antwerp? was published in the academic journal Transport Planning and Technology – and the authors’ version can be freely downloaded via PortEconomics.