Ultra Global and Taiwanese partners to carry out landmark study into Personal Rapid Transit (PRT)

Ultra Global is delighted to announce that it has signed a contract with its partners China Engineering Consultants Inc (CECI) to carry out a feasibility study into the deployment of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) within Taiwan. The agreement, the first to explore Ultra’s transport technology in Taiwan highlights the continued interest being shown in PRT across the South East Asian region. Ultra’s Head of Operations Mark Griffiths is today attending a workshop in New Taipei City to officially launch the project.

The study is a high level planning and design project which aims to increase awareness and understanding of PRT with a range of decision makers, stakeholders and members of the public and make them aware of the social and economic opportunities associated with it. Also included within the scope of the study is a specific exploration into the implementation of PRT in New Taipei City, an area which has been identified by Ultra and CECI as a location where PRT can be a lever in unlocking latent economic potential. The project which is expected to last until August 2014 will also draw on the expertise of consultants Sinclair Knight-Merz (SKM) whose own input and expertise will add considerable value to the project.

The contract is another positive step for the Bristol based developers of the technology Ultra Global who have gone from strength to strength since opening their first system in May 2011. The Heathrow pod, the world’s first commercially operational PRT system has now carried close to a million passengers and has amassed over 1,000,000 safe driverless passenger miles. The efficient operational performance at Heathrow along with the popularity of the system has resulted in tremendous interest across the world and the Taiwanese study is one of a number of studies Ultra is currently involved in.

Ultra’s Managing Director Fraser Brown was delighted to have signed the contract, saying “Our work over the past few years has identified the huge potential in PRT to provide high value, low cost, integrated transport solutions, and we look forward to working with CECI to identify how Ultra PRT can deliver a unique and bespoke response to transport requirements across Taiwan. This development is the result of a number of discussions and visits by both Ultra and CECI to Taiwan and the UK respectively and was initiated some 18 months ago.”

Contact: Richard Isles
T: +44 (0) 208 757 2054
E: richard.isles@ultraprt.com

About Ultra Global:

Ultra Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) is a new and innovative on-demand system for developed or urban environments. It is designed to meet the need for congestion free, multi-origin, multi-destination public transport. Using small driverless electric vehicles that run on guideways, the lightweight and flexible nature of the system enables it to be retrofitted into a broad range of environments and provide transportation that is environmentally friendly and operationally efficient. Ultra PRT has been designed with reliability and safety built-in as standard to ensure the comfort and security of passengers.

Founded by Bristol University (UK) Professor Martin Lowson in 1995, the company’s first system opened in May 2011 at London Heathrow Airports Terminal 5 and currently transports passengers to and from the Terminal’s designated Business Car Park. In addition to removing 70,000 bus journeys on Heathrow’s congested roads each year, the system has also saved 200 tonnes of Co2 per annum and has previously been voted by customers as the single highest scoring passenger service on the entire airport campus.

About CECI

CECI was established in 1969 primarily for the purpose of uplifting Taiwan’s technology and assisting in the economic development of Taiwan and other developing countries. Over the years CECI has undertaken some of the region’s biggest civil, architectural, structural and electrical/mechanical engineering projects, and with the emergence of the electronic information age, has actively expanded its scope of services into new areas of work, including Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), e-commerce and biotechnology.

Arup Aviation News Article: ‘Personal Rapid Transport – (PRT) Two Years On at Heathrow’

Personal Rapid Transport (PRT) – Two years on at Heathrow. Has the project been successful and is PRT the way forward for the ‘last mile’ solutions?

The pioneering technology which uses small driverless electric vehicles that run on dedicated guideways has successfully been in operation at Heathrow Terminal 5 airport since May 2011. The 5 minute journey on one of Ultra’s ((Ultra Global Limited) Pod’s takes in the 2km journey between the business traveller’s car park and the main terminal building. Since then, how has PRT performed and what is the future of these specialist transportation pods at airports and within city and urban environments?

The Airport Phenomenon

Heathrow Terminal 5’s ‘Pods’ have achieved over 99% reliability since implementation and carried over 750,000 passengers. They have removed over 70,000 bus journeys (and as a result reduced harmful emissions) as well as reducing journey times between the car park and the terminal with a non-stop direct service. From the passengers’ point of view, there is never more than a 10-15 second wait for a ‘Pod’, in fact, 80% of passengers don’t have to wait at all – so in summary, they have been a fantastic success.

Twitter/Youtube Feedback

Indeed – the feedback from Twitter and YouTube on the system just goes to show their popularity and why many passengers will choose Terminal 5 as part of their journey plan:

Major advantages

Ultra’s ‘Pods’ are safe, green (powered by an electric motor and 4 batteries), flexible/adaptable (they go where the passenger determines), segregated – (no need to share the usable space with any other transportation mode), small scale (a double track requires just 4m width and a 1.8m height clearance as opposed to other similar modes needing 4m minimum track width for one car and 4m clearance, or even a travelator that requires 10m width and 5m clearance) and they are lightweight. The system is also designed to be easily extended.
Customers love them – as illustrated by the comments above. They find them reliable, dependable, and predictable – they enjoy their simplicity and the whole experience of using the system. The Pods are comfortable and each one can fit 4 people plus luggage, but can be configured to carry more people in different applications.
From an installation and engineering perspective, the infrastructure is lightweight and simple to build. The system is easy to install and test and requires much less land take when compared with conventional automated people movers.

PRT and the future

Arup is studying the feasibility of introducing similar systems in the UK and other countries, including alignment studies to further the implementation of Pods between Heathrow’s Terminal 2 and 3 and their business car parks. Arup have now led several technical and economic feasibility studies, and in San José, CA, they worked with the transport authority on introducing an automated transit network (ATN/PRT) system that would link the commuter rail line with the airport terminals and the light rail system, and at the same time provide enhanced connectivity within the airport campus including car lots. The study’s findings were very positive, concluding that PRT is cheaper to build than APM while offering a higher level of service and greater coverage, but noted the service requirements exceed the demonstrated capacity of the PRT systems currently available, and there are no established regulatory process to support the construction of an ATN in the United States.

Pods are not just limited to airport transit and Arup is working alongside industry and potential developers to look at PRT for transportation at out of town business parks, university and hospital campuses, tourist attractions, future cities and all instances where passenger experience, demand characteristics, physical constraints and the ‘last mile’ connections are key factors in determining the best transit solution. There is every chance a ‘Pod’ could come to a ‘town or city near you’ at some point in the future.

Engineering & Technology Magazine video report on Heathrow pod and PRT

Representatives from Ultra, Heathrow Airport and Arup took part in a short film chronicling the benefits of the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system deployed at Heathrow and the potential for the deployment of the technology in alternative applications such as urban environments.

Taking part in the film were Ultra’s Head of Engineering David Marron, Heathrow Airport’s Retail Services Director Max Vialou-Clark and Arup’s Associate Director Austin Smith.

The film can be seen here.

Heathrow pod receives Green Apple award

Ultra Global and Heathrow Airport were delighted that the Heathrow pod was awarded a coveted International Green Apple Award in front of an international audience at a ceremony at the Houses of Parliament last week. The International Green Apple Awards for Environmental Best Practice and Sustainable Development are run by the ‘The Green Organisation’ and are recognized internationally for identifying and promoting best practice in the field of sustainability.

Since commencing full passenger service in May 2011, the Heathrow pod has demonstrated its environmental prowess with the zero emission electric vehicles having saved over 200 tonnes of CO2 per annum and having removed 70,000 bus journeys from Heathrow’s road each year. With global environmental concerns growing, Ultra Global hope authorities and transport committees will turn to more sustainable solutions such as Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) to meet growing transport demand in the UK and internationally. On winning the award, Ultra MD Fraser Brown commented, ‘We are thrilled to be recognized with a gold award, sustainable performance is a key benefit of the Ultra system and is one of a number of reasons why there continues to be firm interest in the deployment of PRT globally.’

The gold award for the Heathrow pod was one of four awards won by Heathrow Airport on the night, a tally that ensured the airport were crowned ‘Champion of Champions’ at the event.

UK Minister Lord Green Visits the Heathrow pod

Ultra Global were recently delighted to host Lord Green, Minister of State for Trade and Investment as he visited the company’s Heathrow pod personal rapid transit (PRT) system. In addition to a visit to the control room the Minister was able to take a return trip on the pods which have provided close to a million passengers with a link between Terminal 5 and the terminals designated Business Car Park. The pioneering technology which uses small driverless electric vehicles that run on dedicated guideways has successfully been in operation at the airport since May 2011.

In addition to the tour, Ultra’s Managing Director Fraser Brown welcomed the opportunity to share news of Ultra’s work with the minister including updates on projects in Brazil, India, Malaysia and Taiwan. The visit was also an appropriate occasion for Mr Brown to thank the minister for the tremendous support provided by Lord Green’s team at UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) who have helped promote Ultra’s technology so successfully in a number of international markets.

Lord Green becomes the latest in a succession of UK Government representatives to have travelled on the system in the past 12 months including Vince Cable, Patrick McLoughlin, Alan Duncan and Norman Baker. MD Fraser Brown hopes that visits such as this will continue to help improve the profile of personal rapid transit ensuring it is on the agenda at the very highest level. Mr Brown commented ‘Ultra’s future success depends on highlighting the ability and potential of our technology to provide effective connectivity solutions within the UK and worldwide. Lord Green and his team at UKTI are fundamental to this process and we are delighted to have had the opportunity to showcase our work personally to the Minister.’

Ultra Global take part in Open House London 2013

Over the weekend of the 21st and 22nd September Ultra Global threw open its doors to the public as part of the hugely successful Open House London event. The event which was first held in 1992 saw 700 premises across the capital open up to the public, many for the first time. Sites that opened their doors included Battersea Power Station, The Gherkin and 10 Downing Street. Visitors to the Ultra PRT system were able to enjoy a ride on the system followed by a guided tour of either the control room or the maintenance depot. Ultra estimated that around 600/700 visitors attended across the course of the weekend which contributed to one of the busiest Sundays ever on the system.

Whilst the Heathrow pod is continuing to gain publicity within the transport industry, Ultra hoped Open House would increase the systems profile among local residents in and around London. Ultra believe that their pioneering system will become part of the future public transport offering within the UK with many members of the public set to benefit from the on-demand, direct and personal journeys offered by the technology. The event appeared to be well received by visitors and Ultra and Heathrow hope that Heathrow pod may be able to take part again as part of the 2014 event.

Heathrow Pod part of UKTI GREAT Campaign

Images from Ultra Global’s Heathrow pod personal rapid transit have been included within UK Trade and Investments (UKTI) ‘Britain is GREAT’ campaign. The promotion which is designed to showcase the very best of what Britain can offer was originally launched in September 2011 by Prime Minister David Cameron. Since then Ultra Global have been able to take part in a number of events organized through the campaign however this is the first time images from Ultra’s system have been included within the artwork used to promote the initiative. Alongside images of the pods, the campaign also features the likes of McClaren Formula One Cars, Robotic Hands from Touch Bionics and the Bloodhound supersonic car.

The images will form part of a portfolio of pictures available to British diplomatic teams across the world to highlight the best of British skills and expertise and to encourage people to visit, study and do business with the UK. Ultra were delighted that the The RT Hon Michael Fallon, Minister for Business and Enterprise and Minister for Energy used the images featuring Ultra’s pod during the launch of his Construction 2025 agreement earlier this year. Ultra plan to use the artwork at a number of events they are attending this year.

Professor Martin Lowson – The Times (12/08/13)

Aeronautical engineer of international renown who helped to develop the fastest helicopter in the world and pioneered driverless vehicles

Professor Martin Lowson was a leading British engineer whose work in three separate fields had, and continues to have, an impact across the world. From aircraft noise, to the systems and blades of the Lynx and EH101 helicopters, to small driverless pods that ferry passengers at Heathrow, he stood in a fine line of British engineers of innovation and influence.

Martin Vincent Lowson was born in Totteridge, Hertfordshire, in 1938, and was educated at The King’s School, Worcester. In 1955 he began an undergraduate apprenticeship with Vickers-Armstrong.

Returning to academia at Southampton University, in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, he gained a PhD in 1963. As a postgraduate student he was part of the Southampton team which achieved the world’s first authenticated instance of human-powered aircraft flight, when the team’s plane, the Southampton University Man-Powered Aircraft, took off at Lasham airfield in November 1961.

He carried this into aeroacoustics at the Institute of Sound & Vibration Research. Three of his 1960s papers — The Sound Field for Singularities in Motion, A Theoretical Study of Helicopter Rotor Noise and Theoretical Analysis of Compressor Noise — are considered to be of fundamental significance in the theoretical understanding of noise generation.

In 1964 he was appointed Head of Applied Physics at the Wyle Laboratories, Huntsville, Alabama. While in the US he worked on the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo programme; this experience led him in future years to reply to anyone saying, “It isn’t rocket science, you know” with the pithy, “Actually, rocket science is quite simple”. From 1969 to 1973 he was the Rolls-Royce Reader in Fluid Mechanics at Loughborough University.

Demonstrating a lifelong ability to switch from academic to commercial circles, in 1973 he was appointed Chief Scientist and later Director of Corporate Development for Westland Helicopters. He was a co-patentee of the BERP rotor system, which, mounted on a Lynx piloted by John Egginton, gained the world speed record for helicopters of 249.1 mph in 1986, which still stands today.

He was then appointed the Sir George White Professor of Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Bristol. The department, set up in conjunction with the Bristol airplane Company after the Second World War with Roderick Collar as the first professor, had gained an international reputation during the 1950s and 1960s. The department thrived under Lowson’s leadership and by the end of his tenure, its international reputation was secure.

He remained dedicated to research, and turned his mind from a lifetime’s consideration of air and space travel, to getting around on the ground. He set out to answer the simple question: Why do so few people use public transport? His conclusion, leading to the advent of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems, was to give individuals in urban areas nearly all the freedom of movement of the car without the burdens of driving, waiting, congestion or parking. In simple terms, what was needed to make public transport more attractive and efficient were small, computer-controlled systems of cars running on their own guideways, offering non-stop journeys — transport that waited for the passenger, the reverse of the usual experience. He set up a company, ULTRA, in 1995; won a grant from the Department of Transport to create a test track in the old docks at Cardiff; assembled a gifted team of engineers, and finally in 2005 persuaded BAA to award a contract to provide the transport system for passengers to transfer from the car parks to Terminal 5 at Heathrow. This has now carried more than 600,000 paying passengers, to general acclaim, and has twice the number of operating hours of Google’s automatic car. At the time of Lowson’s death, the company was close to securing a contract to provide the world’s first public transport PRT system in Amritsar in India.

Martin Lowson, engineer, was born on January 5, 1938. He died on June 14, 2013, aged 75

The article can be found on The Times website here

Ultra Global feature in Channel 4 News report on UK economy

Ultra Global’s Heathrow pod system last night featured on a report broadcast on the Channel 4 News. The report put together by Economics Editor Faisal Islam coincided with the release today of the UK’s latest GDP figures. Islam’s particular focus was on the part that small and medium enterprises such as Ultra have to play in not only aiding economic recovery but encouraging broader growth by increasing the competitiveness of the UK through the export of innovative technology and expertise. The Channel 4 team were on site at Heathrow on Tuesday morning and in addition to an interview with Ultra’s Managing Director Fraser Brown were able to capture some excellent footage of the pods.

The full report can be seen here