Posts Tagged: Speed



Could a High Speed Test Installation Result In 65 km/hr Gondolas?

CC-image via Wikipedia.

Fatzer AG is an 175 year old Swiss manufacturer and supplier of wire ropes and steel cables who’ve provided ropes for thousands of cable transit systems worldwide. They know a thing or two about this stuff.

So it should cause all of us a moment of pause when a company like Fatzer decides to build a high speed cable test installation to test and explore the “effects of speed, brake force, tension of the rope, disk and rope diameter on the durability and wear of the ropes . . . under realistic conditions.”

According to Fatzer, this is the fastest cable car system in the world operating at a top speed of 18 m/s (~ 65 km/hr). That’s fast. Light Rail fast.

Now this comes with a few caveats:

  • The images and video (see below) we’ve witnessed do not suggest this installation has any vehicles in operation – which is strange considering they’ve called this the fastest “cable car” system in the world.
  • The system loop is only 232 meters long with a line length of just 110 meters.
  • This is a test installation for experienmentation and field testing only.

The first caveat is the most important. The cable industry knows they can operate systems at speeds like these, but have yet to address the rider experience issues speeds like these cause.

Issues of rider comfort, speed-over-towers, deceleration, acceleration, boarding and alighting, station size, and spacing all become major issues when we move from a test installation with no cabins and passengers to a real-world example moving tens of thousands of people per day.

Having said that, it is a big development and one that could ultimately open up new markets for the technology in the future.

So let’s just assume just for a moment that 10 years in the future the issues discussed above are addressed. What does that mean for the technology?


  • System capacity and throughput would be increased dramatically. We’re talking about a pphpd increase on the order of 200-300%. This suddenly makes the technology competitive with heavily-trafficked light rail lines and even moderate subway/metro lines.
  • Long distance “commuting” lines become feasible. The current maximum speed of the technology makes it excellent in circulator/feeder situations, but a non-starter in all but the most specific of long-distance installations. Being able to operate at 65 km/hr allows proposals like City Councillor Brian Tucknott’s Victoria gondola to cross the bridge from misinformed fantasy to realizable possibility.
Check out Fatzer splicing together the cable for this installation (itself an impressive feat) and running it at full speed:

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The Kolmården Wildlife Park Cable Car, Sweden

The issue of turns and corners always seems to pique people’s interest, so consider then Sweden’s Kolmården Wildlife Park Cable Car.

Opened just recently, this 2.6 km long system transports 1,360 pphpd and includes a whopping 6 turns (5 if you don’t include the main station)! Take a look:

This is a fascinating system because it creates as many questions as it answers:

Firstly, the system is incredibly slow with a top speed of just over 6 km/hr. That’s fine for a zoo/resort setting (such as this system is), but would be inappropriate for an urban setting. My industry sources have informed me that a higher speed with such cornering would be possible, but would come at additional cost.

What that cost is and what that top speed would be is uncertain.

Stylized route plan for the Kolmården Cable Car. Notice how each and every turn is to the right. Image via Doppelmayr.

Secondly. While the system has 5 (or 6) turns, notice that each and every one of them is a right hand turn. This is due to the uni-directional flow of traffic – in this case counter-clockwise.

The basic rule of turning without intermediary stations is this:

Vehicles can only flow in one direction and all turns must be either to the left (in the event of a clockwise traffic flow) or right (in the even of a counter-clockwise traffic flow).

This makes sense as the sideways grip that characterizes detachable gondolas would prevent bi-directional traffic flows. (As the gondola’s arm must always travel on the convex side of a corner.)

However note the slim profile of the towers (1:00). Would it be possible to “stack” a second line on top of (or beside?) the first with vehicles travelling in the opposite direction, and therefore turning in the opposite direction?

My sources have indicated that, yes, such a configuration would be possible – again, with additional cost. In effect, to make such a configuration work, one would have to double the bull wheel and engine infrastructure and some of the line infrastructure – almost doubling the cost of the initial line.

But as this system uses simple and relatively inexpensive off-the-shelf MDG technology, one could argue that the increase in cost might be marginal compared to the other alternatives – especially given the resulting increase in service.

Engineers? You’ve got an opinion, I’m sure. Go for it.


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.