Heathrow car park transit system takes shape

18.10.2008   (UK Airport News)

The guideways linking Heathrow Terminal 5 with its business car park have been completed and the new, driverless
Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system is close to beginning trials of the pioneering
project that has the potential to revolutionise the surface-transportation of
passengers. A fleet of 18 battery powered, driverless cars will transport passengers
around Heathrow in the first commercial PRT system in the world.

The cars can carry up to four passengers and their luggage. The system will initially
move passengers between an airport car-park and the new Terminal 5 in near-silence,
privacy, and with a dramatic energy saving over conventional buses. Its 3.8km
elevated track is now complete and trials about to begin which should lead to
the system being introduced to service in autumn of 2009.

Heathrow airport PRT project manager, David Holdcroft said: ‘The Guideway construction
phase of this exciting programme has been completed to plan, fit out will now
start of the stations and track and we have now begun extensive testing of the
PRT vehicles and systems.’

‘PRT 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 energy used by existing forms of public or private
transport. Not only that, it’s a world first and we are very much looking forward
to launching this to passengers in 2009.’

The PRT system is said to generate zero local emissions and is typically 50%
more efficient than traditional buses. The size of the cars – about 6 feet tall
and 4.5 feet wide – means they can get closer to terminal entrances than conventional
train type people movers. Heathrow’s PRT system is expected to bring significant
environmental improvements and reduce congestion on airport roads.

BAA believes the system has the potential to link all of Heathrow’s terminals,
car-parks, hotels, and rail-stations, and even provide a commuting link for airport
workers living nearby. The initial project is costing £30 million and BAA has
taken a one-third stake in Bristol, UK-headquartered Advanced Transport Systems
which devised the PRT.