Take a Test Run on Heathrow's PRT

Heathrow Airport's Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system is shaping up. Here is an insider's look at how this proof-of-concept system is coming together.

Videos cover ride experience inside the vehicle, guideway, stations, vehicle interior, station user interface, escape hatch, maintenance facility, control room, etc.

Full Story: Heathrow PRT



Heathrow PRT

The customer, BAA (formerly British Airports Authority) is very happy with the ULTra system. David Holdcroft, BAA ULTra Heathrow Terminal 5 Project Manager: “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. It offers a completely new form of public transport – one that will deliver a fast, efficient service to passengers and bring considerable environmental benefits, saving more than half of the fuel used by existing forms of public or private transport.”

For future systems, customizations include less visually intrusive safety rail: http://www.ultraprt.com/stills/Still1.jpg

and guideway that lets 80% of
sunlight through: http://www.ultraprt.com/fullGridGuideway.JPG .

Some still images from Heathrow PRT taken last week:

Steve Raney, ATS ULTra PRT North America, Palo Alto, CA

Heathrow PRT

8 youtube clips in a single playlist covering 13 minutes provides more insight into the Heathrow PRT experience: guideway, station user interface, station design, escape hatch, control room, maintenance facility:


- Steve Raney, ATS ULTra PRT North America, Palo Alto, CA

Heathrow PRT impressions

from: http://www.ultraprt.com/cms/index.php?page=impressions-from-an-april-09-...

Impression from a professional consultant from a ride taken in April of '09:

First impressions at the N3 Business Car Park. The station looks very good. Definitely linked with airport/airline with the "wing" structure. The two-berth station seemed easy to "understand".

Standing outside next to the track, I was very impressed by the lack of noise from the vehicle. Obviously the ambient noise is relatively high, but the vehicle seemed to be silent as it moved past me. This reinforced the view that this is a modern, high-tech system, quite different from buses, taxis, tracked-transit systems.

Entering the vehicle was easy and did not feel too cramped.

Inside, when seated, it seemed very spacious. There seemed to be generous headroom when seated. It felt more spacious than a taxi, so this gave a good impression. The seat was comfortable.

It does feel funny that the vehicle reverses out then changes direction. Again, I know the process, but it still felt unexpected. Not a problem, just my observation. I think this is because one expects the vehicle to go back the way one saw it coming from - like a LRT tracked transit system.

Inside, the vehicle seems very well sound-proofed. I really was not aware of external noises. Ironically, I was aware of the noise from the vehicle itself. Not at all intrusive, but a contrast with the perceived silent operation when one stands outside.

Ride quality. acceleration, speeds, cornering, etc all felt very, very comfortable, controlled and safe. If anything the speed up the incline departing from N3 Business Car Park seemed too slow. I had a moment of thinking "if the whole journey is going to be at this speed I'm going to be late/impatient". I felt that the bumps in the ride were rather noticeable and, unfortunately, detracted somewhat from the modern, high-tech impression received up to that point. It felt more like a traditional airport tracked transit system and, therefore, not so "special". I think this reflects a mismatch between the expectation and the actuality. In fact, the ride was perfectly comfortable even with the "bumps" - probably far better than a car and/or bus - but it didn't meet my (possibly unrealistic) expectations which the whole approach to the station and entry into the vehicle had created.

Instinctively I wanted to look out of the front of the vehicle, but the emergency exit door blocked this view. There is still plenty to see during the trip, however, and I never felt I was on a roller coaster. I wonder how the ride feels in the dark?

As a potential user - would I prefer ULTra over a bus service? - yes, absolutely. So, overall, a very good impression and a very promising start.

Steve Raney, ATS ULTra North America, Palo Alto

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