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Construction : Focus | October 2016 | Source : Infrastructure Today

Ropeway projects can be implemented rapidly

With urban space at a premium in cities around the country, ropeways offer immense possibilities to address the burning issues of congestion and last-mile connect, says Vikram Singhal, Executive Director & CEO, Doppelmayr India.

How extensively can ropeway technology be leveraged in India for enhancing and complementing smart urban mobility, in the wake of the thrust on setting up an integrated transportation grid in over 100 urban districts?
Doppelmayr and the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) have recently signed a memorandum of understanding to address global mobility challenges. The partners share the view that mobility is a key to urban development. Infrastructure for mobility is one of the elements that shape our cities - together with buildings and open spaces.

Cable car systems cross residential areas, rivers and existing infrastructure with ease and glide over every traffic hindrance as well as lending themselves perfectly to integration into urban planning concepts. Cable car solutions offer infinite scope for creativity. Structures and equipment can be individually designed to cater for cultures, local circumstances and customer preferences. Passengers enjoy entirely new perspectives of the cityscape, top comfort and rapid connections while using the safest means of transport in existence.

Barrier-free boarding and alighting make cable cars a positive experience for wheelchair users as well as passengers with strollers. Environmentally friendly and efficient at the same time, cable car systems provide an impressive answer to present and future traffic problems, and create added value for any city - existing or under planning.

With urban space at a premium and crowding in cities around the country, ropeways offer immense possibilities to address burning issues of congestion and last mile connect.

Ropeways have multifaceted applications in the Indian context:
Relieve congestion:
Ropeways provide an aerial passageway across roads, canals and buildings, by passing traffic and reaching the destination in a straight line. The point of disembarkation could either be an office complex, railway or Metro station, residential complex or industrial area.
It is an ideal solution for entry and exit points at major Metro stations. Multiple ropeways could be established from two or three different directions carrying commuters from a few kilometers away to and from a Metro station. This would resolve the long standing last mile connect issue.
The ropeway system would provide an ideal low cost inclusive travel option that could be incorporated in the planning stage of a Smart City.
The ropeway system has the potential to be evaluated as a viable alternative to other attempts of removing congestion, viz., BRT.

How can ropeways handle high volumes of passenger movement?
It would be pertinent to mention here that ropeways are not a substitute for a Metro. They can augment and compliment the system to cover areas which cannot be accessed by a Metro and also as a means to connect to the interior of cities. There are several options to set up a ropeway. These are relatively short-distance (a few kilometers) solutions for removing congestion at specific locations and hence can be multidirectional in nature. The system can cater to more than 6,000 people per hour per direction, which in our experience is more than adequate for point congestions. The ropeway system is dynamic, with the options to add or subtract cabins quickly to cater to requirements of peak hours of travel. The system is built to be resilient for rush hours in urban centres.

We have implemented successful urban ropeways in congested developing cities of the world such as La Paz in Bolivia, Constantine in Algeria, Caracas in Venezuela, etc. The dynamics of city traffic and congestion in these cities are comparable to the conditions in Indian cities.

What are the cost and time advantages of setting up urban cable cars vis-a-vis conventional transport technologies?
The ropeway system provides for a safe mode of transport with low carbon footprint, low power consumption, virtually zero noise levels, low ground footprint, low maintenance cost and a far lower capital outlay compared to other modes of mobility. It also offers almost no disruption to traffic during installation and can be set up in approximately 16 to 18 months.

What modern technological features have been assimilated in ropeway engineering since its introduction in the Swiss Alps in the 20th century?
Developments in ropeway engineering are aimed at improving safety and comfort for passengers. Ropeways sport features like level-walk-in cabins for physically challenged people or passengers with strollers, old people, etc.

The technology in ropeway engineering has evolved manifold. There are several options such as detachable cabins with mono-cable, di-cable and tri-cable technologies, chair lifts, aerial tramway, cable liners and funicular railway. The technology has evolved over the decades with Doppelmayr at the forefront of its engineering with a large number of patents to its name, making the modern ropeway one of the safest modes of transport.

Elaborate on the recent projects undertaken by your global operations in Vietnam and other regions of the world.
Vietnam has been one of the hotspots for ropeways in tourism application in the past years. The Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group has built several record-breaking ropeway installations with the Sun Group there.

Doppelmayr has set up five separate ropeway systems at Ba Na Hills in Da Nang. Two more are under installation. Ba Na Hills has been developed as a world-class tourism concept, developing hills into a multidimensional resort and entertainment facility which otherwise would not have been possible without the access provided by Doppelmayr ropeways.

All installations are aimed at making Vietnam attractive for tourists and offering them a one-of-a-kind transportation experience.

Mount Fansipan is the highest peak in Vietnam and an important destination for travellers, local and international. However, it is a rather difficult hike, taking days to reach the top. Now, thanks to the tri-cable gondola lift Fansipan Legend, it is possible for anybody to visit the ¨Roof of Indochina´ including elderly people, families with children, etc. This is the longest 3S ropeway with the highest difference in height. Also extraordinary is the world-famous aerial tramway in the Ha Long Bay. It includes the highest ropeway tower, which is 188.88 meters high, as well as the world´s biggest cabins: each of the two cabins fits 230 people (that´s about 5 buses!). It is in a double decker cabin.

How can ropeway projects be funded?
Ropeway projects could also be set up under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode. PPP mode projects have had limited success especially where high technology companies are involved. We have therefore worked out a modified PPP model, under which it offers a revenue stream to the government after the initial phase with the financier is over.
Thus ropeways have a potential to be a net earner under the modified PPP arrangement. They also offer immense scope to develop the peripheral area for additional source of income notwithstanding the advertising revenue.

Could you cite five stand-out urban mobility projects undertaken by Doppelmayr that exhibit the cost and time advantages of ropeway technology?
The most important and biggest urban ropeway system today is located in Bolivia. It connects the big cities La Paz and El Alto. Currently, there are three ropeway lines in operation consisting of detachable gondola lifts with 10 km length in total and 11 stations. Within the first 28 days of operation, the first line (Lfnea Roja) transported one million passengers.

Some more outstanding urban ropeway projects are in Venezuela (Caracas, San Agustin), in Great Britain (London), in the US (Portland/Oregon and Oakland/California), Algeria (Tlemcen, Skikda, Constantine and Algiers), Singapore and many more.
All these ropeways have been set up in a few months and are successfully operating today.

Are there any further aspects of ropeway engineering that need to be emphasised to make it a mainstream segment of smart urban mobility in India?
Ropeways have many advantages for transportation in urban surroundings and add seamlessly to an already existing infrastructure. They fill gaps, connect facilities, bridge topographical obstacles, create new transport networks, extend existing public transit routes and relieve traffic.

Further advantages are as follows:
Uses a new level
Urban ropeways follow a dedicated route that is independent of other modes of transport.

High capacity with optimal energy efficiency
Modern high-capacity installations carry more than 6,000 passengers per hour per direction.

Short building phase without traffic hindrance
Ropeway projects can be implemented rapidly thanks to a high level of modularisation and optimised work processes.

Spacious cabins
Up to 35 passengers (at aerial continuous movement systems) can be carried in one cabin - as well as wheelchairs, baby strollers and baggage items.

The world´s safest means of transport
Ropeways have a proven track record and are statistically the safest means of transport.

Direct connection
This means the fastest route from A to B in built-up areas or in the case of physical obstacles.

Simple integration into existing public transit systems
Ropeways have continuous movement and don´t stop. Consequently, they have no problem interfacing with other modes of transport as there is no need to coordinate service frequency.

Low space requirements for stations and towers
A minimal structural footprint enables ropeways to be built in densely populated cities.

No waiting times in stations
Ropeways are continuous movement transport systems. That means constant availability of cabins and no need for timetables and no queues.

Barrier-free mobility for all
There is level access for wheelchair users and passengers with impaired mobility while cabins run at minimum speed or stop.

Environmentally friendly and cost-effective
Ropeways have a minimum impact on the environment and offer an excellent cost-benefit ratio.

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