Trivandrum: Infrastructure Kerala Ltd (INKEL) had brought up the idea of pod-cars around the same time when monorail was being pushed as a Mass Rapid Transit System for the city. As of now, monorails do not appear likely as the government is waiting for E Sreedharan's report on the feasibility of Trivandrum to have a metro rail system. And the future of pod-cars seems hazy as well.
“Pod-cars have nothing to do with monorail; both are separate projects,” says an INKEL official. “The studies are going on and the project is definitely alive. The project report would be submitted in about six months' time.”
Image Courtesy: podcars.com
Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) is not really a new concept as it was one of the most popular areas of study during the 60s and 70s. The actual implementation of a PRT however has happened in very few places. The first pod-cars were built and opened to the public on an experimental basis in Morgan Town, West Virginia, USA in 1975; but the idea failed to catch on. Then, in 2010, a 1.2km PRT that was operated in Madsar City, UAE. The final operational PRT in the world is the 3.8km PRT at the Heathrow Airport.
PRT or pod-cars are small sized transport with a seating capacity of 4 – 6 people. The pod-cars would run on elevated tracks resting on one meter wide columns. The initial costs are high, but construction work takes comparatively less time than MRTS. So far PRT has been limited to short distances within one particular area, like an airport or an institute. The battery charged pod-cars are silent and environmental friendly. It functions along predestined routes and stops.
The first urban PRT is being planned to come up at Amritsar through a
mega project costing around Rs.800crores with a total length of 105
kilometers. The venture is a joint undertaking by ULTra Global PRT of
England and ULTra Fairwood, its associate company in India, who are also
carrying out the pod-car project for Trivandrum. While INKEL came up
with the idea, NATPAC was given the task of conducting a feasibility
study regarding the project.
“The feasibility study has been conducted and the report has been
submitted to INKEL,” informed T Elangovan, Head, Traffic and Transport
Department, NATPAC. “Now it is upto them to submit the project report.”
He refused to comment on the conclusion of the report and only said:
“The study was conducted for the 7 kilometer stretch between
Vellayambalam and East Fort; it wasn't a study on how the pod-car
project would be implemented but merely if the pod-car project is
feasible or not.”
It is estimated that an average of 28,000 people would avail of pod-car
services when it becomes fully operational. Each pod-car would be
automatically driven, battery charged and air-conditioned. The
construction cost for the elevated track would be around Rs.50 – 60
crore per kilometer. The travel rate would be comparable with that of a
rickshaw, but with limited number of stops that could never be changed.
The vision of the project is to become the most preferred personal mode
of commuting of the public, above taxis, rickshaws and two wheelers.
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