Tue 18 Dec 2007 – Work on the first phase of a £25 million ($50m) revolutionary new Personal Rapid Transit System has begun at London’s Heathrow Airport. Generating zero local emissions, an 18-strong fleet of low-energy, battery-powered, driverless vehicles capable of carrying up to four passengers and their luggage will connect new Terminal 5 with the business car park.
The PRT will start operations in 2009 and if successful, BAA, the airport’s operator, will extend the system across the airport.
The vehicles, travelling at around 20mph (32kph) will run automatically on a 3.8km guideway, and are controlled by an internal computer and onboard sensor systems. Users should find a vehicle waiting for them at either end of the journey and will run without stopping for other passengers, making it more like a taxi than a bus. The cost of using the vehicle is included in the car parking fee.
The PRT system, called ULTra, has been developed by Bristol, UK-based Advanced Transport Systems (ATS), a university spin-off company in which BAA has taken a 25% stake. It is the brainchild of Martin Lowson, who once worked on the Apollo Space Program before becoming Chief Scientist of Westland Helicopters.
“Our ULTra system has many applications globally but for Heathrow it will provide improved reliability and efficiency of travel to and from Terminal 5, and will significantly enhance the overall passenger experience. The environmental benefits are also a major advantage of the system with carbon emissions 70% lower than car emissions and 50% lower than buses and trains,” said Graham Bradburn, CEO of ATS.
“This is a world-first and a new approach to travel. This is transport for a sustainable future.”
Mark Bullock, Heathrow Airport’s Managing Director, said: “This innovative system forms part of BAA’s plan to transform Heathrow, improve the passenger experience and reduce the environmental impact of our operation through the development of cutting edge, green transport solutions.”
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