Taking to the skies
What began last century as a means to transport tourists to city heights for the great views is being adopted more often as part of the modern urban transport network. Today the international cable car, aka aerial tramway industry is dominated by European companies, which make up 90% of it and have a strong presence in the US and parts of Asia. With a mature European market, where most work involves upgrading and replacing existing systems, manufacturers and operators are looking to emerging markets in newer European Union (EU) countries and other global regions.
From the world’s highest major metropolis in Bolivia to cities in Africa, Europe, the US and Australasia, the cable car, is proving a popular supplement to existing city transport systems for a number of reasons.
La Paz-El Alto Cable Car in Bolivia, which opened in 2014 and is the longest in the world, and showcases these benefits. It was planned to address the precarious public transit system that could not cope with growing user demands, environmental and noise pollution from very heavy traffic, a growing demand for fuel and the high cost in time and money to travel between La Paz and El Alto. It was important to find a solution for El Alto, the second largest city in the department of La Paz and today one of Bolivia's largest and fastest-growing urban centres.
Another example is the Eurasian continent’s longest urban cable car which opened in Ankara in 2014, connecting two key neighbourhoods to the subway network, which according to the city’s mayor, will save up to 80 percent in operating costs in comparison to other passenger transport systems.
Algiers, Morges (Switzerland), New York, Quito (Ecuador) and Sydney are just some cities around the world considering proposals for aerial tramways as a cleaner more efficient way to connect different parts of the city.
How safe is all the hanging about?
While passengers float above cities and scenic landscapes, a number of components housed in the two end stations make this transport possible, including electric motors, cables, pulleys, gearboxes, service and emergency brakes, main, auxiliary and emergency drives, track and haul rope counterweights.
Covering such motors, the work of IEC Technical Committee (TC) 2: Rotating machinery, produces International Standards which deal with the specifications for motors (and generators) of all sizes.
In the case of the EU, standards and regulations ensure the strictest safety requirements are applied to the technology and operation of cable cars, whether in cities or tourist resorts. The EU Directive for cableways, in force since 2004 in EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, allows for the free movement of safety components and subsystems of cableway installations in the EU’s internal market, while maintaining a uniform and high level of safety.