ULTra ("Urban Light Transport") is a
personal rapid transitsystem from Advanced Transport Systems Ltd, a company based in Cardiff, Wales. The system was conceived by Martin Lowson and his design team, Lowson having put £10 million into the project. There are not yet any commercial installations of ULTra, but a pilot project is under construction at London's Heathrow Airport, [ [http://www.heathrowairport.com/portal/controller/dispatcher.jsp?CiID=724474cd82a07010VgnVCM10000036821c0a____&CtID=a22889d8759a0010VgnVCM200000357e120a____&Ct=B2C_CT_PRESS_RELEASE&ChPath=Corporate^Media%20Centre^News%20Releases^Results "BAA signs agreement to develop innovative transport system"] BAA plc Press Release - 20 October 2005] being developed by BAA in partnership with ATS [http://www.baa.com/assets//B2CPortal/Static%20Files/LHWInformIssue4.pdf "World first for Terminal 5"] Heathrow Community News - Spring 2007] . The planned start of operation is Spring 2009 [ [http://ultraprt.com/heathrow.htm "ULTra Advanced Transit Systems Inc"] Heathrow / Test Track Progress] .
To reduce fabrication costs, the ULTra system uses largely off-the-shelf technologies, such as rubber tyres running on an open guideway. This approach has resulted in a system that ATS believes to be more economical than a design requiring custom technology.
The company reports that the total cost of the system (vehicles, infrastructure and control systems) is between £3 million and £5 million per km of track [ [http://www.atsltd.co.uk/prt/faq/ "ULTra PRT site"] ULTra FAQ] .
The company also claims that their design works best as a system with a 5 mile radius in a densely populated area and designers say that the technology can handle cities with populations of less than 1 million — for larger cities, it could be used as a network link to larger mass transit systems; suitability for larger applications remains untested and no wide-scale personal rapid transit system has yet been built.
Advanced Transport Systems Ltd has twice been awarded funding from the UK National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (
NESTA). [ [http://www.nesta.org.uk/ourawardees/profiles/1634/04_milestones.html "Martin Lowson, Advanced Transport Systems Ltd awardee profile"] NESTA milestones] Much of the original research on ULTra was done by the Aerospace Engineering department at the University of Bristolduring the 1990s.
The electric-powered vehicles have four seats, can carry 500 kg payload, and are designed to travel at 40 km/h (25 mph) at grades up to 20%, although the company suggests limiting operating routes to 10%. It is powered by a battery pack providing an average 2 kW of power and adding 8% to the gross weight of the vehicle. Other specifications include a 5 m turning radius, an energy requirement of 0.55 MJ/passenger-km, and running noise levels of 35 dBA at 21.6 km/h and a distance of 10 m. The vehicles can accommodate wheelchairs, shopping trolleys and other luggage in addition to the passengers.
The 1 km ULTra test track was launched in January 2002. The $4 million funding for the test track came from various sources in the UK government. One electric vehicle was demonstrated running at speeds of less than 25 mph. Accurate stopping was demonstrated and the vehicle ascended and descended a steep grade. A single, rudimentary ground level station was shown.
Most of the test track guideway is at ground level. It is stated that in a commercial application, 90% or more of the guideway might have to be elevated. This elevated guideway is about 1.5 m wide.
According to an ATS study of a hypothetical city-based installation, consisting of 19.8 km of guideway (89% of it elevated), the total cost of ULTra track and associated civil engineering works is estimated to be £2.9M/km ($8.7M/mi ). Per-station costs were estimated to be £0.48M ($0.89M). Vehicle costs were not considered in this study. [cite
author = A.D. Kerr, P.A. James (Ove Arup and Partners), C.V. Cook, A.P. Craig (ATS Ltd.)
date = May 2005
title = Infrastructure Cost Comparisons for PRT and APM
publisher = ASCE 10th International Conference on Automated People Movers ]
Heathrow Terminal 5
The Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 project is building convert|2.4|mi|km|1 of guideway which will be used by up to 18 vehicles. It will connect the new "Terminal 5" terminal to the N3 long-term car park, just north of the airport. [cite news
last = Rodgers
first = Lucy
title = Are driverless pods the future?
publisher = BBC News online
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7148731.stm
accessdate = 2007-12-18 ] . The developers expect that users will wait a maximum of 12 seconds for their private pod which will travel at about 20mph. If the pilot project is successful, BAA indicated that they will extend the service throughout the airport and to nearby hotels using 400 pods. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/oct/11/guardianweeklytechnologysection.news1 Guardian Unlimited] Welcome to the transport of tomorrow]
* [http://www.atsltd.co.uk/prt/spec/ www.atsltd.co.uk]
* [http://archive.cardiff.gov.uk/Government/english/Council_Papers/Environmental_Scrutiny/02_06_25_env/Env_25_jun.htm "Cardiff County Council Environmental Scrutiny Committee Meeting held
June 25 2002"]
* [http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&cp=sk9s20gr4hzj&style=o&lvl=2&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=7695765&encType=1 Test track aerial image]
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