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Heathrow's Personal Rapid Transport ('PRT') system is on track as guideway construction phase is completed

21 October, 2008

Heathrow Airport's pioneering new PRT system has moved a step closer with the successful completion of 3.8km of steel and concrete guideways, linking Terminal 5 with the Business car park to the north of the airport.

Heathrow Airport's pioneering new PRT system has moved a step closer with the successful completion of 3.8km of steel and concrete guideways, linking Terminal 5 with the Business car park to the north of the airport.

BAA and Laing O'Rourke completed the construction phase of the project, on time and on budget, working in a challenging environment close to the airport's perimeter fence and northern runway. Advanced Transport Systems, the system designers, have now begun the fit out programme and extensive system testing in preparation for the launch of PRT to passengers in autumn 2009. The £25m system is the first commercial PRT system in the world and will transform the way passengers travel around the world's busiest international airport.

David Holdcroft, PRT Project Manager, Heathrow Airport 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."

Graham Bradburn, Chief Executive of Advanced Transport Systems said:

"Advanced Transport Systems has developed ULTra, a new and world-leading solution for public transportation systems. ULTra is a sustainable taxi that waits for you and drives itself where you tell it to go. Conceived as the ideal form of urban transport for the new century, we are pleased and excited to be working with BAA to implement the first commercial PRT System at Heathrow."

The Heathrow PRT system consists of a fleet of 18 low energy, battery powered, driverless vehicles capable of carrying around four passengers and their luggage, which travel along a dedicated guideway.  It generates zero local emissions and will be typically 50% more energy efficient than traditional buses. This will bring significant environmental improvements and will help to reduce congestion on airport roads.

Notes to editors

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About PRT

Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) is an innovative transport system which could provide a sustainable alternative to traditional bus and coach use at Heathrow.  It provides on-demand driverless travel using its own guide way network.

BAA will host the first commercial application trial of PRT in 2009 which will allow passengers to travel between Terminal 5's business car park (N3) and the main terminal building in individual driverless pods.

The PRT system under development at Heathrow is the ULTra (Urban Light Transport) system, which has been developed by Advanced Transport Systems Ltd, a company based in Bristol.

About the PRT system

ULTra, which stands for Urban Light Transport, is an advanced form of PRT which provides effective, low cost and sustainable transport for cities, airports and special developments worldwide.

The system works using a number of driverless vehicles which travel on a dedicated guide way network of 1.5m wide tracks which run at ground level or are elevated and can be routed within buildings making it much more convenient for passengers.

The vehicles are guided along these guide ways using laser sensors, which are embedded in the vehicle. The vehicles are powered electrically via a battery pack. The central control system ensures that batteries are recharged, as necessary, when the vehicles are stationary.

The access points and destinations chosen by passengers are a series of off-line stations which will be distributed around the network like bus stops or taxi ranks; positioned where they are needed. The passenger selects a destination and the central control system responds to this request by immediately allocating a vehicle on the required path and timing for that journey. The central control system also ensures that empty vehicles are sent where they are needed to meet passenger demand. Simulations demonstrate that waiting times are negligible, averaging around 12 seconds. 95% of passengers are served in less than 1 minute.

The vehicles automatically and non-stop, take the passenger to the desired destination on the best available route at speeds of up to 25mph. As a result, typical passenger times are reduced on average by 60% per journey and travel is more reliable, predictable and congestion free, affording passengers greater certainty in their journeys.

The vehicles are spacious with seats for 4 adults and ample space for shopping, pushchairs and luggage, with heating or air conditioning as required. Travel is safe and secure, with safety levels as good as trains, approximately ten times higher than automotive safety, and passengers have exclusive use of their cab and travel only with chosen companions.

The light, small and efficient vehicles, travelling non-stop and only on demand, result in significant energy savings and produce zero emissions at the point of use. The PRT system reduces carbon emissions by 70% when compared with cars and 50% when compared to trains and buses.

Contact information

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