Business Secretary Vince Cable rides Heathrow pod on route to Brazil (April 2013)

Ultra Global Limited (UG) were delighted to welcome Business Secretary Vince Cable to our Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) transport system at Heathrow Terminal 5 on Monday 22 April.

The Business Secretary was shown the control room and took the 5 minute journey on one of Ultra’s 21 ‘Pods’ on the 2km journey between the car park and the main terminal building.

Vince Cable said; “I am impressed by Ultra Global’s innovative, world leading technology and was glad to be given the opportunity to see and experience it for myself. The fact that it originated as an idea at Bristol University is proof of what UK research can lead to.”

Briefed by Managing Director Fraser Brown and Head of Engineering David Marron, the Business Secretary  heard about the idea behind PRT as an additional transport mode to complement existing technologies and provide new, zero emissions, urban transport for cities and campuses. The Business Secretary was told how these small driverless Pods, powered by an electric motor and 4 batteries, were an ideal solution for the perennial ‘last mile’ transport problem in many cities which often discourages people from using conventional public transport. Fraser and David highlighted that adding PRT into a city or campus to complement existing public transport could help improve connectivity, increase public transport use, and reduce congestion from the private car.

Fraser explained that Ultra Global were working with Arup, Bristol City Council (BCC) and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to investigate PRT’s implementation in Bristol to complement the planned upgrades by Network Rail to Bristol Temple Meads station, Bristol City Council’s planned Metro and Bus Rapid Transit schemes, and to support the LEP’s objective of creating 17,000 jobs in its Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone (TQEZ) through improved connectivity.

Fraser and David also shared the news that Ultra was working with The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and Transport for London (TfL) on PRT’s suitability to support the economic and social development plans of LLDC to complement the existing transport infrastructure including the tube, DLR, bus routes and cycle lane and hire schemes.

Fraser informed Vince Cable that UG were engaged with the Automotive Council as part of the Council’s work on developing the UK’s autonomous vehicle capability. He explained that UG’s Pods carried many of the key technologies major car manufacturers were working on as part of their driverless car programs and that through the council UG’s technology was being considered as part of an industry wide demonstration progamme.

Cable learned of UG’s plans to export this UK technology. Fraser explained the work being done with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) support in India where the city of Amritsar is considering the use of PRT to take pilgrims from the rail and bus stations in the city to the Golden Temple.

The Business Secretary was flying to Brazil on a 4 day visit leading a UK Business Delegation. UG were amongst a number of UK infrastructure companies accompanying the minister as he lent his support to their work promoting UK business exports to this large and rapidly growing economy. Specifically Cable met Brasell, UG’s business partner in Brazil, and one of the first potential customers for PRT in the country’s southern state of Santa Caterina. Speaking to the state officials at a dinner at the UK Consulate General’s Residence in Sao Paolo Mr Cable said; “Ultra Global are already a great British exporting success story, having sold their unique personal rapid transport systems into high growth markets around the world. I was very pleased that they could join me on the UK trade mission to Brazil and I wish them every success for bringing PRT to the Brazilian market, and to other global markets in the future”.

Professor Martin Lowson 1938-2013

It is with great regret and sadness that Ultra announces the death of its founder and President, Professor Martin Lowson. After a distinguished career in rocketry and helicopter design, Martin started Ultra in 1995 to solve the question of why so few people use public transport. With some of his students from Bristol University and help from other colleagues, he began an 18 year journey to take Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) from idea to reality. Martin’s tireless energy and tenacity saw him build a team of talented people that started by building Europe’s first PRT track in Cardiff in 2000, then went on to sell the world’s first commercial and airport based PRT system to Heathrow Airport in 2005. The Heathrow system went live in 2011 and for the last 2 years has been carrying paying passengers to great commercial and passenger acclaim.

His innovation has led thousands of engineers, civic and political leaders to come to Heathrow to see and understand what such technology could do for other towns and cities throughout the world. Martin was firmly in the long tradition of British engineers with a global influence.

Latterly in his role as President, Martin has been involved in work with stakeholders in Bristol to study the feasibility of a PRT system around the Temple Meads station and new enterprise zone. Martin has also been Ultra’s key point of contact with ATRA and specifically the ATRA Industry Group.

Martin leaves his wife Ann, daughter Sarah and son Jonathan. Our thoughts go out to them all at this time.


Minister for Universities and Science the RT Hon David Willetts given a tour of a pod at Intelligent Mobility Showcase

Ultra Global Managing Director Fraser Brown last week had the opportunity to spend some time with the RT Hon David Willetts, the UK Minister for Universities and Science. The meeting with the minister came as the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) hosted a two week showcase exhibition highlighting some of the work being undertaken around the country within the Intelligent Mobility industry. In addition to a static display present at the Department’s Victoria Street office, Ultra Global were able to bring along a pod  for the visit which generated interest and intrigue from both department staff and curious passers-by throughout the day.

The example of Ultra Global would have been of particular interest to the Universities minister given the Company’s origins at Bristol University. Further still the meeting gave the opportunity for both parties to follow up following Ultra Global’s attendance on the UK Trade Mission to India earlier in the year which the minister was an integral part of.

During the meeting with the minister, Fraser was able to share some of the details of the work Ultra Global is currently doing not just around the world but at key developments in the United Kingdom including Bristol and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Regarding Ultra Global’s participation at the Innovation Showcase Fraser commented, ‘We are grateful for the opportunity to showcase Ultra’s technology alongside other exciting and innovative intelligent mobility solutions. The showcase highlights the strength and value of the expertise working in the engineering and technology industries in the United Kingdom today.’ On further engagement with the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), Fraser added  that ‘BIS’s key agenda for making progress on autonomous vehicles was one that was aligned with Ultra. Ultra has operated successfully at Heathrow for over 2 years and have safely travelled over 1 million miles.’

Landmark week for the Heathrow pod: 2nd Anniversary followed by the system’s millionth driverless mile

It has been an exciting week for Ultra Global with the Company’s Heathrow Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system reaching a number of notable landmarks. On Wednesday 8th May Heathrow Pod celebrated reaching its 2nd anniversary of full passenger operations followed the next day by news that the vehicles had completed their one-millionth driverless mile.

The system that has been hugely popular with Heathrow’s passengers began operations in May 2011 and has carried 700,000 passengers to date from the Terminal 5 Business Car Park across to Terminal 5 itself. Having removed 140,000 bus journeys from Heathrow’s congested roads and having saved 400 tonnes of carbon emissions the system has been a phenomenal success for Ultra, Heathrow and most importantly the airport’s passengers.

The huge success at Heathrow is now encouraging interest from the UK and across the rest of the world. With PRT now a proven, reliable and attractive option, a number of similar but much larger systems are now being considered in a number of locations including Amritsar, Northern India and Florianopolis, Brazil in addition to second system that Heathrow Airport plan to implement at Terminals 2 and 3.

Upon reaching the 2nd Anniversary, Ultra’s Managing Director Fraser Brown commented, ‘We are delighted to have reached our second year of operation, we are now an established member of the Heathrow transport offering and the tremendous success of the system at Heathrow highlights the huge benefits in personal rapid transit to reliably and efficiently deliver a personal, direct and on-demand service particularly in areas where there are problems with last mile connectivity.’

Ultra Global’s founder Martin Lowson, who started the company in 1995, commented ‘It is extremely satisfying, and testimony to the dedicated work of the whole Ultra team, to reach one million miles, fully driverless and two years full passenger service. Most satisfying of all is that the pod continues to delight its users.’

Ultra Global is looking forward to an exciting 2013 with a number of potential new systems being explored and with the Heathrow system expected to be close to carrying its 1 millionth passenger by the end of the year.


Heathrow Pods Go Funny For Money

Heathrow’s unique passenger pod travel system has given one of its fleet a Comic Relief makeover to support the charity ahead of Red Nose Day, and from today, gives passengers a chance to win three days’ free parking at the T5 Business Parking Car Park.

The Comic Relief passenger pod, which takes you door-to-door without dropping off other passengers or waiting in traffic, is festooned in Comic Relief 2013’s Di-nose-saurs and is already a run-away passenger favorite.

From Red Nose Day on 15 March and throughout March, the passenger who tweets the best “Funny For Money” message from the pod after donating to Comic Relief on their mobile phone will win three days’ free parking at the T5 Business Car Park.

Almost two years old, the pods are a UK first, and Heathrow is the first airport in the world to use them. Passengers say they’re “incredible”, “pretty brilliant” and “futuristic”.

Fraser Brown, Ultra’s managing director, said: “We are very proud to support Comic Relief and promote their work towards a world free from poverty.

“Communities flourish when people can travel quickly, with less pollution and congestion. We’re working with partners across the world, in India, Malaysia and Brazil, to help them bring this innovative technology and its social benefits to communities.”


Notes to editors

  1. More information on the pods and the UK company behind them can be found at Ultra’s website:
  2. To enter, pod travellers should text “FIVE” or “TEN” to 70510 to donate £5 or £10 to Comic Relief from their UK mobile phone between 15-31 March and complete this tweet in the funniest way they can: “I gave £5/10 to @comicrelief on #heathrowpod…”. The competition closes at 5pm, 31 March
  3. Ultra has signed Memorandums of Understandings (MoUs) with business partners in Malaysia, Taiwan and Brazil where they will work on feasibility studies to introduce a pod system in key cities
  4. The driverless, laser-guided pods seat up to 4 people, going between Heathrow’s business car park and Terminal 5. The journey, past roads and runways, is just 5-6 minutes
  5. traveling at 25 miles per hour, the vehicles run on four standard car batteries
  6. In December 2012, the pods carried their 500,000th passenger
  7. Photos of the Comic Relief pod are attached
  8. For more info, please contact Gill Kirk at / 07721 036191

Heathrow announces plans for an additional Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system

Ultra Global are delighted to see that plans for an additional Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system at Heathrow have been included in Heathrow Airport Limited’s business plan for the next five years  (April 2014-2019, also known as Q6) which was announced this week. The proposed system which will run from Terminals 2 & 3 out to the terminal’s own particular business car parks will aid Heathrow Airport Limited in its vision to create a far simpler Central Terminal Area for passengers.

The new Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system, which will be the second installed at Heathrow, follows in the path of the hugely successful Heathrow POD system that currently connects the Terminal 5 Business Car Park with Terminal 5 itself. The system at Terminal 5 which has been operational since May 2011 has carried over 600,000 passengers to date, has removed the need for 70,000 bus journeys on Heathrow’s roads each year and has maintained impressive availability figures of around 99.7%.

In response to the news, Ultra Global Managing Director Fraser Brown commented, ‘We are thrilled to hear of Heathrow’s inclusion of a further PRT system in Q6, the success of Heathrow POD has demonstrated the huge potential in PRT to deliver an effective sustainable first/last mile solution around campus locations such as airports as well as providing a distributor service from ‘heavier’ transport interchanges such as rail stations. It is an endorsement of the Ultra system that less than two years after opening the world’s first airport PRT system, Heathrow wants to build more.’

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will now publish a consultation on their initial proposals for aeronautical charges at Heathrow before making a final decision in January 2014. The Q6 Period will begin in April 2014 and run through to 2019.

The full Heathrow Airport Limited Q6 Business Plan can be found here.



Notes to Editors:

Ultra Global Limited

Ultra Global Limited designed and operate the Heathrow POD system at London’s Heathrow Airport. 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. For more information please visit

Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited

Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited (formerly BAA) owns and runs London Heathrow Airport, Britain’s aviation hub, as well as a number of other UK airports – Aberdeen ,Glasgow and Southampton. For more information please visit



2012 for Ultra Global

It’s been another ground-breaking year for the Ultra Global pod system.

The system at Heathrow has carried over 500,000 passengers to date, with passengers continuing to rave about its speed, reliability, environmental credentials and its readiness to go.

We’ve had transport and government ministers from the UK and around the world visiting the system to ascertain how it could be incorporated into new and existing cityscapes.

As a result of this, we’ve signed Memorandums of Understandings (MoU’s) with business partners in Malaysia, Taiwan and Brazil where we will be working on feasibility studies to introduce a pod system in key cities.  All of these are very real development prospects that will bring demonstrable benefits to users.  We aim to bring you more news on these in the coming months.

The Amritsar project is still under development and should hit key milestones in 2013 including beginning construction.

To sum up – 2012 has been a good one for Ultra.  But we’re hoping 2013 will be an even more exciting one, as more development projects move forward, with pods becoming a familiar sight in more cities around the world.

Fraser Brown
MD, Ultra Global

Ultra Global Heathrow pod hits new milestone

Ultra Global PRT’s Heathrow pod has marked the anniversary of its 500,000th passenger riding the transport system in its first hugely successful 18 months of operation – to the plaudits of its business passengers. The day was marked with a visit from Transport Minister Norman Baker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, who was eager to see the technology first hand as part of his vision to introduce new methods of public transport to the UK.

Recently, another fan, Rt Hon Alan Duncan MP, Minister of State for International Development also hopped on board the pods, prior to beginning of his UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) Ministerial Mission to Singapore, and Malaysia. The Minister was promoting the UK’s expertise in Smart Cities Technology, to solve problems relating to urban living – the pods are a shining example of this.

Norman Baker said of his visit; “it was great to see this revolutionary technology first hand and celebrate the positive impact it has had on reducing congestion at Heathrow over the past 18 months. This technology has the potential to be used on both a local and global level to reduce car dependency and make traveling easier in urban areas.”

Fraser Brown Ultra Managing Director at Heathrow said: “It was great to meet with both Ministers and show them the pod system. We are proud to celebrate an incredibly successful first 18 months of operation and we are pleased that the technology is of interest to a wide range of potential partners worldwide”.

Heathrow pod’s latest Rt Hon fan

Heathrow pod’s latest fan, the Rt Hon Alan Duncan MP, Minister of State for International Development hopped on board a pod at Terminal 5, at the beginning of his UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) ministerial mission to Singapore, and Malaysia on Monday 3rd December.  The Minister was leading a trade mission of 27 companies to promote the UK’s expertise in Smart Cities technology, which uses ICT solve problems relating to urban living.

The pods are an unmanned system of rechargeable automatic mini-taxis.  The Minister said of his first ever ride on a pod, “This is British engineering, design and execution at its best. This is a revolutionary, environmentally friendly transport system that’s easy and cost effective to install, pollution free and extremely fun to use.  It highlights the UK’s and Ultra Global’s ability in designing a world first and world beating new form of transport, moving large numbers of travellers, to exactly where and when they want to go.  This is exactly the sort of innovative system that I’ll be promoting on my forthcoming Far East Trade Mission.”

The Minister was accompanied on his ride by Fraser Brown, MD of Ultra Global PRT, the Bristol company that designed, engineered and runs the Heathrow pod at Heathrow’s T5.  The system, originating from Bristol University, has been in operation at the Airport for 18 months, carrying nearly 500,000 passengers and winning passenger plaudits and industry awards along the way.

Ultra Global is working with its Far East partner Fairwood  on an engineering feasibility study at Changi Airport, looking at connecting existing terminals and the new Terminal 4 building. In addition, Ultra has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with YTL of Malaysia and Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) and are working on opportunities in Kuala Lumpur, particularly in the town of Putrajaya.

The Ultra Global pod is world beating transport technology which can be easily installed, with minimal disruption or environmental impact, give existing cities with already established infrastructure/buildings real economic and social benefits in a sustainable way by solving ‘last mile’ solutions, which is what passengers want.