BBC Explores Mexico’s First Urban Gondola, Mexicable

Post by Gondola Project

BBC World Hacks is a weekly program dedicated to exploring innovative ideas that are being implemented to solve modern day challenges. On this week’s broadcast, a BBC reporter flew down to Ecatepec and rode the Mexicable — Mexico’s first Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) system.

The program described the urban gondola line as a “Flying Machine” which has not only made positive impacts on the individual lives of residents but has greatly benefitted the city as a whole.

To listen to the entire 23 minute podcast, click here.

Thanks for to Ross E. for sending us the link!

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System Dossier: Polinka

Post by Jonathan Brodie

Polinka cable car. image by Flickr user Maciek Lulko

Wrocław, pronounced ‘Vrots-waff’, is the capital of Lower Silesia, located in the southwest corner of Poland. Wrocław’s unique location has resulted in a fascinating history where the city was caught up in several conflicts such as the Napoleonic Wars, when the city became the center of German liberation; and World War II, when the city, called Breslau by the Germans, was captured by the Red Army in 1945. Shortly after the war, the country was transferred to Poland and officially named Wrocław.

Remnants of Bohemian, Austrian, and Prussian influence can be seen throughout Wrocław’s unique combination of Gothic and Baroque architecture. Today the city has grown to become the financial, commercial, and cultural hub of western Poland, and was named in 2016 the European Capital of Culture.

Rynek market square in Wrocław. Image by Flickr user Mark Swanson

Wrocław is also highly regarded as an educational hub that contains a student population of 130,000. Many of Poland’s highest ranked universities such as the University of Wrocław and the Wrocław University of Technology reside in the city. The Wrocław University of Technology will remain the topic of this dossier as it is the site of Poland’s lone urban CPT system.

Polinka is a 373-meter long Aerial Tramway (ATW) that travels 7m over the Oder river connecting two sections of the campus and several other attractions in the city such as the Hydropolis and the Wyspianski beaches. The ATW system is somewhat unique since it uses two low capacity 15 person cabins (CWA’s Omega IV cabins) to shuttle passengers across the river. In the urban market, this model of cabin is typically seen in continuously circulating Monocable Detachable Gondolas (MDG) while ATWs generally use larger cabins to increase line capacities.

The Polinka cable car crossing the Oder River. Image by Flickr user Maciek Lulko.

Before the cable car was constructed, a footbridge was considered and analyzed. Ultimately a gondola was chosen as it was less expensive and unlike a bridge, an aerial lift would not interfere with marine traffic. With the help of Doppelmayr Garventa Group, Polinka opened in 2013 and replaced a 20 minute walk across the Grunwaldzki bridge. Today, that same journey only takes two minutes.

Unfortunately shortly after opening, the system was shut down for 1.5 months as a barge captain accidentally damaged one of the cabins with an excavator after he failed to take the necessary precautions to avoid the ATW. Since then, the cabin has been repaired and the system continues to shuttle passengers across the river.

To access the cable car, students at the University simply flash their ID cards. Meanwhile other passengers must either show a valid URBANCARD or pay the equivalent of a public transport ticket (US$0.80 or 3 zł). Despite the accident, the unique aerial lift has positively raised the University’s public profile across the country. Additionally, the system has been well integrated into the everyday life on the campus.

Student events and activities being held at the Polinka. Image from Facebook.

Overall, the Polinka demonstrates how ropeway technology can be applied in an university setting to help solve challenging topographical barriers in a creative and economical manner.

Year opened 2013
Length (km) 0.373
Capacity (pphpd) 366
Speed (m/s) 5.0
Trip time (minutes) 2


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Mixed Results So Far As Brest Cable Car Undergoes Annual Maintenance

Post by Gondola Project

Brest Cable Car (Téléphérique de Brest). Image by Denelorn.

As the Brest Cable Car (Téléphérique de Brest) nears its first anniversary, its journey so far has been anything but smooth. A series of technical challenges — ranging from power outages on its maiden voyage to computer/operational failures — has plagued France’s first Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) system. With its slew of problems, critics have been quick denounce and mock the project.

This week, as if things couldn’t have gotten any worse, one of the system’s cabins was damaged when it fell several meters off a crane during its first annual maintenance program. Contrary to information spread on social media, the cabin did not detach from the cables.

Despite its problems, the cable car has transformed into a popular local attraction. And to the surprise of its many, ridership has already breached 550,000 passengers in 6.5 months (estimated to transport 675,000 per year). In fact, the system’s popularity was immediately apparent on its first day as a group of locals decided to dress up as skiers to celebrate the special ocassion.

According to the city’s tourism office, the aerial ropeway has become a must see attraction for visitors as it soars to heights of 80m. Reviews on TripAdvisor have praised the system’s for its pleasant ride, affordable prices and spectacular views. Overall, the system is now ranked the 7th most popular attraction in the City. The popularity of the Brest Cable Car amongst tourists is common for urban ropeways as other systems around the world have experienced a similar phenomenon. For instance, the aerial lifts in La Paz/El Alto, Medellin, and Portland are all ranked as a top 10 attraction in each respective city.

Unfortunately, riders will be face long wait times as a replacement cabin will not be ready for another 6-9 months. We will continue to monitor the system’s progress and provide any updates on the website and/or our Facebook page.

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System Dossier: Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Post by Jonathan Brodie

Spectacular view of the rainforest, Coral Sea, and Cairns from the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Image by Rainforest Skyrail Cableway.

Rainforests are some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems despite covering only 6% of the earth’s surface area. In fact, rainforests are so diverse that they contain more than half of the planet’s plant and animal species. These tall, dense jungle regions are replete with valuable resources such as a variety of foods, raw materials, and medicines. Unfortunately, large swaths of rainforest are destroyed each year for the purposes of mining, timber, and grazing cattle.

Australia, on the other hand, has been a leader in the protection and preservation of these forests. The Wet Tropics of Queensland located in northeast Australia is a World Heritage Site covering over 900,000 hectares and is internationally recognized as one of the world’s pristine tropical rainforests.

A popular excursion that allows tourists to experience this tropical rainforest is the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, a 7.5-kilometer cableway that travels above Baron Gorge National Park and Macalister Ridge. This ambitious project was proposed in 1987 by a 5th generation Cairns family, the Chapmans, who currently still own and operate the system today. Due to the rainforest’s sensitive nature, many years were initially spent consulting with local, state, and government officials as well as seeking approval from the indigenous Djabugay tribe in order to ensure maximal environmental and cultural protection.

When construction began in 1994, the developers used an innovative set of techniques that were new to cableway developments in order to adhere to the strict environmental codes imposed on the project. This included no swath clearing along the cableway route, no new access roads, and minimal interference with the rainforest environment. Additionally, the cableway towers and stations were placed strategically in areas of the rainforest where gaps already existed, reducing the number of trees that had to be removed.

When Skyrail was completed in 1995, the ropeway was recognized as the longest multi-stage Monocable Detachable Gondola (MDG) system in the world. Since its inception, numerous upgrades have improved the system’s riding experience including the installation of eleven Diamond View glass floor cabins in 2013. Today, the ropeway continues to be a unique attraction as it is a part of a larger tourist experience that takes riders deep into the rainforest.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Image by Flickr user Eric.

The gondola experience begins at the Smithsfield terminal, which is located 15 minutes north of the coastal town of Cairns. From Smithsfield, the system stops at two mid-stations, Red Peak Station and Barron Falls Station, before reaching Kuranda – a small rainforest village. Both mid-stations offer their own their unique experience that allows passengers to hop on and off the gondola and learn more about the interesting rainforest environment by foot.

At Red Peak Station, a complimentary Ranger guided tour is provided along a boardwalk, and at Barron Falls Station, riders have access to lookouts over the Barron Gorge and Falls as well as access to the Rainforest Interpretive Centre. While the gondola travels at a maximum speed of 5 m/s, the system often moves at a slower pace giving riders an optimal amount of time to enjoy the scenic views.

Lookout over the Barron Gorge and Falls. Image by Flickr user Shaun Johnston.

Lastly, the gondola reaches its conclusion at Kuranda Village. This relaxing, laid-back village gives tourists a first-hand experience of life in the rainforest. From handcrafted jewelry to the local cuisine, and an Australian wildlife attraction, there is no shortage of options for visitors to learn and experience everything that the rainforest has to offer. All in all, visitors typically spend 1.5 hours one way and 2.5 hours roundtrip experiencing the cable car and its associated amenities. Tour packages are available and can be combined with the Kuranda Scenic Railway – a train built over 120 years ago that also connects Kuranda to Cairns.

The incredible success that Skyrail has experienced can be seen with the numerous national tourism awards and international environmental awards representing a breakthrough in ecotourism and sustainable tourism standards for many projects to come.

To see the cable car in action, check out the live webcam provided on the Skyrail website.


Length (km) 7.5
Year Opened 1995
Capacity (pphpd) 600
Cabin Capacity (persons) 6
Stations 4
Speed (m/s) 5

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Orange Line Undergoes Testing, Set to Open in October

Post by Gondola Project

Orange Line (Línea Naranja). Image from miteleferico.bo.

After drones began pulling the pilot rope in May, construction and technical work has continued to advance quickly on La Paz’s Orange Line (Línea Naranja) cable car. This week, an online video from La Razón’s Facebook page reveals that the system is now undergoing testing.

Mi Teleférico’s Executive Manager César Dockweiler announced that the inauguration of La Paz’s fifth Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) system is scheduled for the first week of October if everything goes according to plan.

The Orange Line is the second ropeway (after the Blue Line) to open as part of the city’s Phase Two US$506 million urban gondola plans (Red de Integración Metropolitana).

With four stations and a length of 2.6km, the Orange Line will improve connectivity to more than five neighbourhoods in La Paz. Passengers will be able to move seamlessly through the cable car as the system’s terminals are connected to the existing Red Line and the upcoming White Line.

Designed to operate at capacity of 3,000 pphpd with 127 cabins, the system will reduce travel times to 9.5 minutes. In preparation for its October opening, students and young professionals have already been invited to join the Mi Teleférico team by submitting their resumes.

After the Orange Line opens for passenger service, the White Line is expected to follow suit by starting operations in December.

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Small Swiss Ropeways Threatened

Post by Gondola Project

To many visitors and locals, aerial ropeways are considered an integral part of Switzerland’s cultural identity. Since the country’s first cable driven system was built in 1866, Switzerland has designed some of the world’s most unique and spectacular cable systems.

Today, despite having just a population of just 8.3 million, more than 1,700 ropeways are currently operational!

Unfortunately, the existence of about 200 of these systems (or 12%) of the nation’s cable cars are now under threat due to a new cable car law that was passed in 2007. These 200 ropeways are small systems that allow tourists to experience the country’s alpine culture and mountains while providing farmers a vital transport link.

The new laws are designed to harmonize regulations across all lift operations (regardless of company size) to ensure greater safety and conformity to EU standards. However many small systems, which only charge a few francs per ride to low volumes of passengers, do not have the financial resources necessary to implement the costly upgrades.

For some small lifts, it is estimated that approximately 1 million francs (US$1 million) are necessary to obtain new permits.

Small ropeway companies argue that the new regulations are too stringent. As such, many are now banding together to lobby the government. Image from Luzernerzeitung.

The federal government contends that they cannot make exceptions until politicians and lawmakers make the necessary changes in parliament.

Luckily, efforts through workshops and lobbyist groups are already underway to ensure that these systems remain an intact for future generations to come. In the meantime, inspectors stress that passengers need not worry about the overall safety of these small ropeways. In fact, statistics demonstrate that Swiss ropeways are the country’s safest mode of transport!

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Photo of the Week: Awana Skyway

Post by Gondola Project

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