Fatzer — Don’t Be Roped In With Massive Legacy Expenses

Post by Advertorial Team

Fatzer Performa Wire Rope Cable

The rope is the heart of any ropeway — but companies that produce these components say that planners who ignore this fact early in the process do so to their detriment. Image via Fatzer AG.

Imagine dressing for the most important presentation of your career. Your $3,000 hand-tailored suit is perfectly matched with a newly pressed bespoke shirt, bright silk tie, and completed by richly burnished brogues. Then it is utterly spoiled by gym socks.

Add several zeroes to that initial sum and you have just pictured the sartorial equivalent to mismatching steel wire rope to your urban cable-car system. It can be an ugly error — but unlike socks, which are easily changed, this expensive mistake keeps on taking.

“When a cable-car system is designed, it is uniquely calibrated to fit with whichever gauge and quality of rope is selected. So the time to select the appropriate rope is right at the start,” says Matthias Stacher of Romanshorn, Switzerland. He’s the Sales Manager of Fatzer, among the world leaders in the production of steel wire for cable car systems since 1900. So he knows what he is talking about.


Your entire infrastructure is built to accommodate the rope.

When the tail is wagging the dog, you need to give due consideration to the tail. Too often, the rope is a not a priority for project managers, senior decision makers or even engineers. Typically less than 1% of the price of their entire system, the cost of the rope may be viewed as incidental.

Such a perspective is understandable. After all, how much did you pay for your absolute, finest socks?

The trouble is, once the rope is chosen for the setting, there is no going back. You cannot switch it for a different gauge, style or quality. You can only replace it with an identical rope when it wears — and when it is inappropriate for the task, it will wear faster.


A good analogy is analog: your retro-cool record player.

Like the cable car itself, the turntable is a vintage technology that is not just making a comeback it is finding new uses and fans worldwide. Think of how it works.

Every time the stylus circles your record, the diamond in the needle is actually extracting a fraction of the plastic. Play the record enough times and you will need to replace it. Likewise, every time your rope circles your cable car system’s bullwheel, it bends a little. Consequently each rope has a limited number of cycles. Much of a system’s lifetime ownership costs is determined by the number of times the rope bends around the bullwheel—or how many times the system “cycles”, in industry-speak.

Next, consider how many more cycles per year are required of an urban cable-car system than even the busiest ski resort’s gondola or chairlift. (This is what companies like Fatzer do.) Unlike the single-season ski hill, public transit runs year-round and can afford little downtime. Maintenance must be swift and efficient.

“When a rope is not properly matched to the task, it must be replaced more often,” says Stacher. The operation typically takes a few days but in complex environments can take up to a couple of weeks — a massive headache for any urban transit system. However that is only the beginning.

You need to factor in the consequent effects of shutting down for such a period: increased traffic, a need for substitute transit and delayed or stranded commuters; at best an irritated public; at worst, possible legal action against engineering firms who ignored the question of the rope, and political consequences for decision makers on voting day.


Suddenly what was an “inconsequential” one-off decision becomes a recurring expensive and logistically taxing legacy for decades.

Matthias Stacher’s advice? “Start thinking about the match between the rope and the task early in your planning.” He recommends discussing your plans with the producers of the materials before finalizing any decisions. “It may seem unimportant at first, but a review of the project and its needs is key even at this preliminary stage.”

It’s sound advice. After all, most of us put our socks on long before the suit.

Rope and cables may not seem as important to you as it does to people like Matthais Stacher, but choosing the wrong one for your cable propelled transit system can tie your hands for decades.


For more about Fatzer, please visit their Sponsor’s Corner page or direct at their homepage.

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Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

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