Post by Steven Dale
This past summer I brought attention to the Rheinseilbahn in Koblenz, Germany. In a past post I suggested it was likely a strong example of an Urban Gondola given its innovative design. That opinion, however, was based upon second and third hand knowledge, not first-hand experience. Last month, however, I had the opportunity to visit Koblenz and tour the Rheinseilbahn myself.
All images by Steven Dale.
At the Deutsches Eck (German Corner), where the Moselle River meets the Rheine is the small, picturesque city of Koblenz, Germany. Unbeknownst to most outside (and likely inside) Germany, this sleepy burg located 100 kilometers west of Frankfurt will next year be swarmed by two million German tourists, all visitors to the bi-annual Bundesgartenshau (BUGA), a horticultural show of almost Olympian proportions.
But already – almost a year prior to the show’s opening – a key piece of infrastructure is making a dramatic impact on Koblenz and how her residents move about the city.
The Rheinseilbahn, a Doppelmayr-built and operated Urban Gondola system, is shuttling locals and tourists alike from downtown Koblenz to the BUGA grounds near the small Ehrenbreitstein Mountain Fortress located 1 kilometer across the Rheine.
The system is unlike any other Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) line ever built. The reason for its uniqueness is single and solitary: Design.
Most cable transit systems in urban environments are nothing more than ski-lifts ported into urban settings, the juxtaposition between the two creating a sometimes comical incongruity. The Rheinseilbahn, however, appears designed for an urban environment (a point which I’ll return to later this week), respecting both the urban fabric and the system’s riders.
Sources have informed me that the system was built for €15 – 17 million (roughly $20 million USD), though I’ve yet to receive confirmation of that number. At $20 million USD per kilometer, readers might think that to be a rather high, expensive figure. It isn’t. The figure is well within standard prices, given the innovative design and the advanced 3S technology employed here.
3S, as regular readers of The Gondola Project will know, is currently the highest-end gondola technology available. It carries the most people, travels the fastest and has the largest cabins. It’s also the most expensive (a distinction it shares with poorer-performing Aerial Trams). Yet for comparative purposes, know that a low-capacity LRT line with few technical challenges will typically cost two or three times the price the Rheinseilbahn was built for yet are likely to perform (generally speaking) at an inferior level.
- Speed: 5.5 m/s; 19.8 km/hr
- Line Capacity: 3,700 pphpd
- Vehicle Capacity: 35
- Headways/Wait Times: 34 seconds between vehicles
- Number of towers: 2
- Number of stations: 2
Astute readers will note the slow line speed of less than 20 km/hr. This is due to the tourist-based nature of the system. At a round-trip cost of €8, riders expect some degree of bang for their buck. The system could easily whip riders to the show grounds at speeds over 30 km/hr, but a ride shorter than the already-brief five minutes would feel like a rip-off to most visitors.
Thus far, riders haven’t shied away from the ticket price, nor the short duration of the trip. Despite the lack of any real attractions at the mountain terminal, the Rheinseilbahn welcomed 129,000 paying customers within its first three weeks of operation.
No doubt there is a degree of novelty at play here. The true strength of the system will be tested during next year’s BUGA and beyond as Koblenz residents recently voted to maintain the Rheinseilbahn as a permanent fixture in the city.
Tomorrow in Part 2 of this photo essay, I’ll discuss the Rheinseilbahn’s unique vehicles and the variety of amenities they possess.
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