Corby Study

Corby is a town in Northamptonshire with a population of approximately 50,000. It has seen much of its traditional industry vanish in recent years, leading to a rapid modernisation programme involving new development on greenfield sites and a renewal of the town centre.

A 2002 study by Colin Buchanan & Partners evaluated a proposal for conventional LRT, providing an opportunity for direct comparison of PRT with LRT as conducted in a case study in 2004, which found:

A very strong case for ULTra in Corby, both financially and socially:

  • Covers both its capital and operating costs
  • Attracts over 70% more passengers than LRT, 17% transfer from car: high socio-economic NPV
  • PRT offers an excellent modern underpinning to the new development, can be integrated architecturally, and run within new stores in the town centre.
  • Even in the older parts of town, roads are wide enough to offer many practicable and aesthetically acceptable routes
  • In the new developments, the route and station locations can be designed integrally, to offer maximum accessibility with minimum severance, and enhance the attractiveness of both residential and commercial areas.

The proposed Corby ULTra network. The network was planned as two phases, with the full system comprising around 30km of guideway, and providing an easily accessible service to a much broader area than the LRT proposal

Corby Objectives

  • Link rapidly expanding new development on greenfield sites to a modernised town centre.
  • Make the centre attractive by bringing passengers directly into the shops and facilities.
  • Increase the use of public transport in the town (currently very low)
  • Contribute to an environmentally sustainable transport policy
  • Provide a direct comparison with LRT as an alternative

LRT Proposal

Colin Buchanan & Partners had recently analysed a proposed LRT system for Corby. The same trip matrices and modal split model were used to provide comparison on exactly the same basis.

The proposed Corby LRT Network; the recent analysis of this LRT proposal allowed a direct comparison with PRT.

Developed in two phases, the full system has 28.4 kms of track serving the same areas as the PRT network shown above, but with a far higher average distance to the stations from passengers point of origin.

System Costs

Although the guideway costs of ULTra are much less than those of LRT, PRT attracts almost twice as many riders as LRT and therefore requires much higher vehicle capacity. The requirement for 895 vehicles makes the overall investment similar to that for LRT, but the performance is far superior.

Ultra                               LRT

Total Capital Cost per km             £3.2m                            £3.3m

Operating Cost p.a.                        £5.1m                            £5.8m


System Performance

Both PRT and LRT serve the same catchment area, but ULTra’s loop-based network design gives greatly improved access for passengers on edges of the area when compared with corridor-based LRT. The demand predicted for the first year of operation of each full system (both phases) is given below:


  • 13.4 million passengers
  • 17% transfer from car
  • 19.3% of all trips in area
  • £15.1M revenue at £1.13 average fare
  • 7.8 million passengers
  • 10% transfer from car
  • 11.4% of all trips in area
  • £8.5M revenue at £1.09 average fare

Cost-Benefit Assessment

30-year financial NPV (revenue less operating and capital costs):

ULTra: + £4M                         LRT: – £69M
 Both systems cover their operating costs, but LRT falls far short of covering its capital costs (at 6%) while ULTra covers both operating and capital.

30-year NPV of social benefits less costs is +£188M with a benefit/cost ratio of 260%

Social benefits include £16.9M in passenger time and money savings, accident cost savings at £0.2M, energy savings at £0.4M per year. Mean passenger waiting time is 0.3 minutes

Reductions in air pollution of 62 tonnes CO, 5 tonnes VOCs, 10 tonnes NOx, 1 tonne particulates, and 3600 tonnes CO2per year. Noise produced is below background levels.

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