Indian holy city to get world's largest urban transport podcar system

Indian holy city to get world's largest urban transport podcar system

Driver-less pods will cut journey times in Golden Temple city by 30 minutes and cost no more than an auto-rickshaw
Ultra Global PRT
The pods will manage 35 percent of daily visitors to Amritsar's Golden Temple and charge them a fare that's competitive with an auto-rickshaw ride.

After seeing the world's first commercially operational pod system at work at London's Heathrow airport, the Punjab government in India has begun to build the world’s largest urban Passenger Rapid Transport (PRT) system in Amritsar, a major religious destination just 32 kilometers east of Lahore and therefore, very close to India's western border with Pakistan.

During religious festival days around 500,000 people visit Amritsar's Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine in the world. But on an average weekday the temple attracts 100,000 visitors. That's more than the Taj Mahal gets, and the route from the railway and bus stations to the temple is always packed.

This is where, by 2014, a network of "ultra pods" will be in place -- rubber-tired, electric battery-powered vehicles capable of carrying four passengers and luggage.

The 3.3-kilometer elevated podcar guideway will cut 30 minutes off current journey times at prices similar to existing auro-rickshaws and taxis, according to Ultra Fairwood, the British company which designs, constructs and operates pod PRT solutions.

These pods are driver-less, computer-driven, zero-emission vehicles that use one third the energy of a car and are nearly silent.

"The [Amritsar] pod system can carry up to 100,000 passengers a day on a two-mile elevated guide-way in over 200 specialist vehicles between seven stations, making it the world’s largest PRT system to date," said representatives at Ultra Fairwood.

Having broken ground in Amritsar on December 12, Ultra Global PRT said it's in discussions with authorities in other Asian cities that suffer from major transportation infrastructure issues.

“In one city, by installing a PRT system we could potentially reduce a current journey of up to one hour in peak hours to around seven minutes. In another country we may be able to reduce the number of cars on a major city’s streets by up to 20 percent," said Ultra Fairwood’s CFO and deputy CEO Alan Moore.

“Research has shown that by 2020, there could be between 50 to over 600 PRT system installations worldwide.”

Sita Wadhwani is CNNGo City Editor in Mumbai.


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