ULTra (Urban Rapid Transit) is a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system for Heathrow Airport.
The pod-car system was developed by a British engineering company called Ultra Global PRT. The pod-cars use four car batteries as they don’t have any engines; they use 50% less energy than a bus does, are driverless, computer driven and are guided by lasers on an open guideway; they also charge automatically at the charging points and instead of rails, they use rubber tyres.
You can read more about the pod-cars on their website.
At Heathrow Airport they are called Heathrow Pods and are located at Terminal 5. The Heathrow Pods connect to the Terminal’s business car parks which are located at the north-west part of Heathrow Airport and they operate for 22 hours a day. They serve Business Car Park A, Business Car Park B and Heathrow Terminal 5.
The total length of the Heathrow Pod system is 2.4 miles (3.9km) and was built on behalf of BAA, which is the owner and operator of Heathrow Airport. The system cost £30 million to develop.
The construction of the guideway was completed in October 2008, then after successful trials, it was opened to the public on May 2011. Not long after that it became fully operational and the diesel bus service between the business car park and Terminal 5 was discontinued. You can find the Heathrow Pods at car park level 2 in Terminal 5!
What do I think of them?
I think they are absolutely fantastic! and we should have them everywhere. These pods are one of the best “alternative” forms of transport to a bus, tram or train.
There’s very little waiting time to ride a pod; you make your selection on the touch screen to where you need to go in the pod and if the pod is not docked at the hub, one will automatically turn up for you. When the pod arrives, the doors will open automatically. Once you’re inside you have to press the door close button and after the doors have closed you press the start button. When the pod starts you sometimes have to wait for roughly a minute as the pod has to recharge its battery.
When you travel in a pod, you feel like you’re in your own bubble. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. J
Unlike waiting for a bus or a train, you’re in a pod almost instantly. This is one of the greenest and cleanest forms of transportation I have seen to-date and I advocate for that type of system to be made available everywhere.
The system is ideal for towns, cities and suburbs within a borough; it is the best alternative to a bus as travelling on buses can take a long time due to heavy traffic and, as most buses still run on diesel, they pollute the environment and their emissions contribute towards climate change.
London Transport, county/borough councils and Public Transport Executives should propose the PRT system for selected towns and suburbs to promote alternative forms of transport.
It can be done if the people agree to have that type of system as an alternative form of transport.
Also, the ULTra podcar system is not just about transporting passengers, it also has the ability to transport freight as well.
Here are some videos of the Heathrow Pods:
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