The Wales Air Forum has reported that Heathrow has marked the anniversary of its 500,000th passenger to ride on its transport pods with a special visit from Transport Minister, Norman Baker. The Heathrow transport pods were designed by Ultra Global PRT and originally began as a research project with the University of Bristol back in 1995. In 2001, the company established trial runs of several generations of vehicles on a 1km test track in Cardiff after winning £2.7 million in funding from a the UK government Innovative Transport contract to design and develop a full prototype. Then in 2005, Ultra was chosen to build a pod system at London’s Heathrow Airport.
Today, the system provides around 900 passengers per day with a link from the T5 Business Car Park to the terminal and consists of 21 battery powered, driverless, zero emission vehicles that eliminate more than 50,000 bus journeys a year between the Terminal 5 Business Car Park and the main terminal. The innovative pod system has been noticed by the transportation industry as its won the top prize at the British Parking Awards for transport innovation, the London Transport Award for Most Innovative Transport Project and the Most Innovative Service award at the Best in Britain awards of The Great Exhibition 2012.
Ultra, which is 75% owned by Heathrow, has also signed a commercial deal with a company in India to deliver a system that will be 10 times the size of Heathrow’s for the northern city of Amritsar. In fact, Amritsar will represent the first urban application of such a system; and at peak capacity, it will be able to carry up to 100,000 passengers a day on a 8km / 4.8 mile elevated guideway in over 200 pods between seven stations connecting the Golden Temple (the holiest shrine of Sikhs) with the rail and bus stations.
A quick search on YouTube revealed this 10 minute segment from the online show Fully Charged about the Heathrow pods: