Pods get bigger and better, year on year

What transport system has carried 370,000 new passengers this year? Can boast service reliability better than 99%? Hasn’t suffered from increasing petrol prices? Not been affected by transport disputes or points failures?  Has enthusiastic fans across the globe?  Won several prestigious awards? Has a sister system under construction in Amritsar India?

Step forward the Heathrow pod, celebrating its first year in passenger service.

The 21 electric powered, driverless, emissions free, 4 person vehicles, programmable to go where/when you want, have had a major impact on passengers and operator Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL).

The creation of Ultra Global PRT, the Heathrow pod system operates 22 hours weekdays, 20 hours on Saturdays, 21 hours on Sundays – longer periods than many other public transport systems.

It also differs in using 70 per cent less energy per passenger to power than a car, and 50 per cent less than a bus. Since May 7, the pods have replaced the T5 Business Car  park buses, saving over 50,000 bus passenger journey’s, removing 200 tonnes of CO2.

For those who bemoan the time spent waiting for the next bus/train/tube or their dependability, listen to this – pod users turn up at a station, programme their pod, hop in and are off – usually within 30 seconds.  And with a reliability of over 99%, they leave other transport modes standing – literally.

Indeed, athletes and spectators arriving at Heathrow for the Olympics this summer will find the pods sprinting off the blocks (at 40km/25mph), working in relay, without any stopping or waiting, to take them onwards in their search for medal glory.

In the last few months the Heathrow pod has been garnered with awards from London Transport Times and the Business Parking Awards 2012.

If more proof of the success of the system is needed, an Ultra Global PRT pod system over ten times larger than the one at Heathrow is being installed at Amritsar, India, making it the World’s largest urban PRT system.  Featuring an 8km route with 240 vehicles, it will carry up to 100,000 passengers per day. The foundation stone was laid December 11 2011, with completion due late 2014.

With detailed feasibility work for potential expansion to T1, T2 and T3 being undertaken, a fully operating system at Heathrow Airport, a system under construction in Amritsar India and under consideration at several American and RoW locations – it really is a Happy Birthday for Ultra Global PRT and the Heathrow pod. Here’s to many more to come.

Previous newsIntro to Ultra video updated Next newsThe Telegraph - How to stop traffic