Heathrow Airport has today unveiled the Heathrow pod, the airport’s most innovative transport system and the first new example of transit technology in 100 years.
The unique Heathrow pod system – which started life as a Bristol University project – was developed by UK company Ultra and BAA and consists of 21 low energy, battery powered, driverless, zero emission vehicles capable of carrying four passengers and their luggage along a dedicated 3.8km guide way.
The pods will carry the 500,000 passengers travelling between the Terminal 5 Business Car Park and the main terminal each year, giving them a smooth and virtually silent five minute ride. The journey is on demand and non-stop from start to destination at the touch of a computer screen.
Each temperature-controlled Heathrow pod has been designed for privacy and comfort and allows passengers to select their own direct destination. There are no timetables (and no waiting), as a central computer ensures that pods are distributed at each station according to passenger demand. When waiting for a passenger, the pods recharge themselves at battery points, so are always ready to go.
- The Heathrow pods are expected to eliminate 50,000 bus journeys on the roads around Heathrow each year
- Journey time to and from the terminal is congestion free and around ten minutes less for the average passenger (compared to the original buses)
- The pods can travel at up to 25 miles (40kph) per hour
- The pods use 70 per cent less energy than it takes to power a car, and 50% less than a bus
- The service runs 22 hours weekdays; 21 hours Saturday; 20 hours Sunday
- More than 100,000 passengers have used the pods since the service started on 18 April
- The Heathrow pod has taken six years to develop at a cost of £30m
The introduction of the first ever Heathrow pod system is in addition to Heathrow’s existing £4.8bn investment into improving passenger experience, while reducing the overall environmental impact of the airport’s operation.
Fraser Brown, Managing Director of Ultra PRT, said: “We’re very excited about the benefits that the Heathrow pod can offer Heathrow’s passengers. Its service is predictable, reduces waiting time and offers reduced journey times; it’s also an environmentally sustainable form of transport that ensures reduced emissions.
“There’s an enormous sense of pride for all the staff who were involved in turning this science fiction dream into a reality at Heathrow and demonstrating the best of British innovation.”
John Holland-Kaye, Commercial Director at Heathrow, said: “We’ve been listening carefully to our passengers as part of our plan to make every journey better at Heathrow. Passenger feedback has been amazing and positive Twitter comments abound. We love watching people’s reactions when they see the pods for the first time and then again when they step off just five minutes later at their destination.
“The Heathrow pods offer a personal, comfortable and reliable ride that is free of emissions. That’s why our excitement for this pioneering British technology is being shared by town planners, architects, other airports, business parks, campuses, retail and residential destinations from the US, Europe, India, Mexico and the UK, who believe that this system could revolutionise transport in urban environments.”