Post by Steven Dale
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.
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