Sky Blue Line and White Line Welcomes Bolivian President

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President Evo Morales inspects two new urban gondola lines on the Mi Teleférico. Image by Doppelmayr.

The world’s largest network of ropeways continues to rapidly expand as the White Line (Línea Blanca) and section 1 of the Sky Blue Line (Línea Celeste) are scheduled to enter public service next month in March.

The Bolivian president alongside Doppelmayr representatives were the first riders to test the two new urban gondolas last month. The Sky Blue Line and White Line will dramatically enhance system connectivity by creating four new interchange stations. Collectively, the two new cable cars will enable passengers to one day make convenient transfers to the Orange Line (Línea Naranja), the Brown Line (Línea Café), the Yellow Line (Línea Amarilla) and the Green Line (Línea Verde).

President Morales began his trip at Liberator station on the Sky Blue Line in the south before making his journey northbound to the White Line. The President was impressed with progress of implementation works as he commended the efforts of staff to help modernize the city’s rapid transit system and to help the urban gondola network enter the record books.

To learn more about the Sky Blue Line, White Line and Doppelmayr, click here.

The President was on hand to address the media and congratulate staff on their achievements. Image by Doppelmayr.

Overview map of the entire Mi Teleférico network. Image by Doppelmayr.

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Onboard the World’s Longest 3S Cable Car

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If you’re anything like us, the recent opening the Hon Thom 3S cable car has made you dream of an escape to a sunny tropical island.

Unfortunately, booking a roundtrip ticket to the Vietnamese getaway is not always possible. Luckily though, with the magic of the internet, it is now possible for us to at least vicariously experience the world’s longest 3S gondola on YouTube.

The footage is a little grainy at times, but you can still get a great feel of the incredible technological achievements made by this stunning 7.9km journey across the Gulf of Thailand.

A big thanks to reader Peter H. for sending us this link!

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Competition Winner Selected for Gothenburg Cable Car

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Modern station and tower designs developed by UNStudios pay homage to the City’s harbour cranes.

Sweden’s first urban gondola, the Gothenburg Cable Car, is one step closer to realization. The US$137 million (SEK 1.1 billion) system will mark the first time a new mode of public transport is introduced in the country since Stockholm’s subway was built in 1930.

The proposal, which started in 2013, set off on a design competition in June 2017 where several teams were invited to submit their concepts. To up the stakes and sweeten the pot, selected participants were compensated US$50,000 (SEK 400,000) for their submissions while the winner won a cool US$125,000 (SEK 1,000,000).

After careful deliberation and several rounds of public consultations, the team made up of the Amsterdam-based UNStudios and Gothenburg-based, Kjellgren Kaminsky Architecture were chosen as the winners. The jury’s decision was guided by a competition brief and four main principles:

  • Architectural quality and design
  • Function, logistics, and accessibility
  • Feasibility and development potential
  • Sustainability: economic, administrative, environmental and social

While the cable car has been proposed as a four station system with six towers, the committee tasked the participants to develop generic concepts for just an intermediate station, an end station, system lighting and two towers (65m and 100m). The City wanted the architects and engineers to develop a plan where the proposal had flexibility to be revised in the detailed design stage but without losing its core concept.

The winning concept, known as New Beacons, was ultimately chosen as the jury described it as a, “sensitively presented proposal that combines poetry and playfulness with flexibility and development potential.” The jury made specific comments on the towers ability to reference Gothenburg’s history as a working harbour and how the stations were designed with ecological sustainability in mind.

Route map of Gothenburg Cable Car.

Stations designed with a minimal footprint to ensure flexibility for each station site.

Photovoltaic thermal roofing designed for stations.

Harbour cranes provided inspiration throughout entire project’s concepting.

Conceptual tower design may be constructed with fiber reinforced spun concrete or steel section with hollow cross section.

UNStudios will act as the project’s design consultant who will work alongside a team in a “turn-key” contract. A main contractor will be responsible for the final feasibility study, planning and construction of the cable car.

As strange as this may sound, while the competition is now over and a project contractor has been chosen (currently awaiting court ruling on an appeal), the project is technically not fully approved yet.

A feasibility study is underway and will not be complete until summer 2019. At the same time, the City Planning Authority is coordinating development plans to not only allow the construction and operation of the cable car but to determine how the cable car will interact with its surrounding environment.

Until then, the project team will have plenty of work ahead as Gothenburg City Council will make a final decision in June 2019 on whether or not they want to invest in and construct the cable car. If everything goes according to plan, project proponents hope to have the cable car up and running by the City’s 400th year celebrations in 2021.

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Photo of the Week: Testing Teleféricos in Santo Domingo

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Hon Thom 3S Cable Car Opens

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The wait is finally over.

After more than 2.5 years, the world’s longest 3S passenger ropeway was inaugurated on February 4. Invitees attended kick off festivities with a slew of giveaways, recognitions, and announcements.

Passengers hopped onboard the 7.9km Hon Thom Cable Car and soared from Phu Quoc over the Gulf of Thailand’s crystal blue waters on a 15 minute ride before arriving on Hon Thom Island (i.e. Pineapple Island).

The ropeway system, designed with seventy 30-passenger cabins and a capacity of 3,500 pphpd, can operate at maximum speeds of 8.5m/s (30.6km/h). This incredible speed helps the cable car tie a record, initially set by the 30-TGD Psekhako ropeway in Sochi, Russia, for the fastest 3S gondola ever built.

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Hundreds of marine vessels appeared to have gathered below the cable car to witness its inauguration. Image from Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park.

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Hon Thom Cable Car. Image from Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park.

With this new piece of infrastructure, travelling to Hon Thom Island has never been as easy nor as exciting. The cable car will aid in the development of the region’s growing tourism market where three million visitors arrived in 2017.

The island chain, already home to what has been called the most luxurious JW Marriott resort ever built, is expected to experience significant growth in the short-mid term as new mixed-use developments are scheduled to open.

Hon Thom Nature Park, located at the cable car’s southern terminal, will officially accept visitors on Lunar New Year on February 14. Visitors to Pineapple Island will be able to enjoy a number of amenities such as paragliding, kayaking, and diving.

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Passengers enjoying panoramic views of the island chain onboard the cable car. Image from Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park.

For North American travellers, Phu Quoc is still a bit of trek, since there are no direct flights available. However, for those living in the region, it appears that six airlines already serve the island’s international airport. Flights from large cities such as Bangkok, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Siem Reap have regularly scheduled arrivals.

Seasonal and/or chartered flights also seem to available from more distant European cities such as London, Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Moscow. From the looks of it, the future of Phu Quoc and the cable car is incredibly promising.

Visitors arriving in Vietnam’s Maldives can purchase ropeway tickets at US$22 (adults) and US$15 (children). Luckily, for those who can’t visit in the meantime, we can all ride vicariously as social media accounts have already captured the entire experience online.

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Hybrid Transport — Trieste Opicina Tramway Funicular

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Trieste Opincina Tramway Funicular. Notice anything different? Image by Nol Aders.

Before the widespread adoption of automobiles, cities around the world had little choice but to develop creative ways to move people around. Near the turn of the twentieth century, when urban areas began to industrialize and innovations flourished, streetcar systems began to grow and expand. However, one of the main challenges faced by rail vehicles then (and now) was that they were unable to navigate hilly terrain (> 10% gradient).

To solve this problem, some city builders found that cable-driven solutions were complementary tools in a multi-modal and topographically-challenged transit network.

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Mount Adams Incline transporting streetcars up and down the hill. Image from Wikipedia.

For example, in the past we documented an interesting hybrid transit lines such the streetcars which operated on Cincinnati’s Mount Adams Incline (1876 – 1948).

Simply put, the rope-driven funicular enabled streetcars to navigate steep hills by allowing a vehicle to load onto a platform, which in turn, was pulled up to the top of a hill. It wasn’t the quickest option by today’s standards, but was regarded as an effective solution for its time.

However, as competing lines were built and cars became more popular, the Mount Adams Incline (alongside the city’s other inclines) were all abandoned. And to that extent, we assumed that all hybrid streetcar / funicular systems were forever lost to time.

Of course, that is until reader Paul S. sent us a link of the Trieste Opicina Tramway.

This 5.2km transit line, built in 1902, connects the town of Opicina to the City of Trieste in Northeastern Italy. While the system at the onset looks like any standard tram, 15% of the route is actually designed with cable-propulsion technology.

When the system first opened, the transit route’s steepest section (between Piazza Scorcola and Vetta Scorcola) used rack railway technology to overcome the hilly terrain. However, to accommodate an increase in ridership, the rack railway section was replaced in 1928 with a more efficient cable-driven tractor. The 799m long rope-propelled section of the line enabled the tram to overcome a height difference of 160m and a maximum gradient of 26% in about 7 minutes.

File:Tram Trieste 2009 11.JPG

The cable-tractor basically “brakes” the descending vehicle (seen on the left) and “pushes” the ascending vehicle. It is important to note that the tram vehicles are not physically connected to the cable-tractor. Image by Smiley.toerist.

The funicular portion of the transit line, between Piazza Scorcola and Vetta Scorcola, is highlighted in red. Image from Trieste Transporti.

While photos are great for illustrating the hybrid tram+funicular concept, nothing really beats seeing the system in action. If you watch the video below, the funicular part starts at the 1:20 mark. In another clip, it’s possible to see that the actual process of preparing the tram for cable-propulsion is relatively quick, taking about 1.5 minutes.

Today, the tram is a popular ride for both locals and tourists and is one of the top attractions in the City. Unfortunately, the line is currently out of service as it suffered damages in an accident in 2016.

As it has been our experience with cable-propelled transit research, it appears that a lot of the information on these hybrid transit lines is yet to be fully unpacked and/or understood by transit planners — especially in the English-speaking world. And perhaps this should not come as a surprise since the majority (and limited number) of these cable-fused trams — Monreale Tram, Automotofunicolare Catanzaro and Darling Street — are now defunct and/or operated in Italy.

Nevertheless, as urban populations grow and renounce the car for more sustainable transportation forms, one can imagine that this type of hybrid technology could be a complementary service in many terrain challenged streetcar networks. The ability to make tram routes more efficient by directly overcoming hilly areas can not only make journeys quicker, but it can also add some novelty/fun to a trip.

Off the top of my head, there are a dozen or so cities where this technology could be used. In fact, this type niche product seems like it could be a logical extension of the urban transit solutions offered by ropeways manufacturers. If cities knew of this product, imagine how many 300+ streetcar cities in the world would explore this technology? After all, how can urban planners begin to solve local transport challenges if they don’t even know that hybrid cable-trams exists?

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World’s Longest 3S Ropeway, the Hon Thom Cable Car, Set to Open in February

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Image from Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park.

In a few weeks, the 7.9km Hon Thom Cable Car (Vietnamese: Cáp treo Hòn Thơm) is expected to open for passenger service on the largest island in Vietnam. Once operations begin, not only will it hold the world’s longest continuous (single section) 3S passenger ropeway title, it will also dramatically improve transport time and experience along a string of tropical islands known as the An Thoi Archipelago.

After construction began in September 2015, the system is now being tested before it is commissioned in February 2018. This incredible feat of engineering was made possible thanks to the expertise from ropeway manufacturer, Doppelmayr, who collaborated with industry leaders such as Fatzer and CWA.

The 3S cable car begins its journey at Phu Quoc (pronounced “foo-kwock”), an island roughly the size of Singapore that lies 15km south of the Cambodian coastline in the Gulf of Thailand. Specifically, the cable car’s northern terminus is located in An Thoi, a port town in the southern region of Phu Quoc known for its white sand beaches, fish sauce, and coral reefs. Officials expect Phu Quoc to transform itself into the next Maldives and Phuket over the next decades as it lures investment with a slew of major infrastructure projects totalling US$16.7 billion.

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