Ask Tino



Maximum Travel Speed for a Cable Car

We recently received a great question from reader Roberto:

I was wondering what is the maximum speed now registered in the world for a cable car. So far I know, reversible cable cars (43 kph, Portland, USA) go faster than the well known loop cable cars (27 kph, Val d’Isère, France), which is not clear to me why. If you could also explain this issue, that would be great. Thank you in advance.

By the way, what can we expect in the near future for maximum speeds?

These are great questions Roberto. To start, it’s important to remember that Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) can be broken down into top-supported and bottom-supported systems. For bottom-supported systems, the fastest cable technology are funiculars which can travel at maximum speeds of 14 m/s (50km/h).

For top-supported systems such as the Aerial Tram and Gondola, maximum speeds are 12.5m/s (45km/h) and 8.5m/s (30km/h) respectively. Maximum gondola speeds as high as 9 m/s are rumoured but not confirmed.

Why detachable gondolas (“loop cable cars”) travel at lower maximum speeds is partially related to issues of design and economics. For a detachable gondola to reach higher speeds, it would require enormous stations to accelerate and decelerate cabins.

For most gondola systems — which travel in relatively short distances — the increase in speeds would only result in marginal time savings but result in much greater station costs, energy demands, system wear and tear, and etc etc. Aerial trams in comparison, are fixed-grip systems. They simply come to a full stop in a station which enables them to travel at higher maximum speeds. Also, aerial trams typically use larger cabins which are able to provide greater comfort and stability during high speed operations.

As for the future, high speed cable test facilities have reportedly designed ropeways operating at speeds of 18m/s (65km/h). While this is exciting, it’s important to note that before maximum speeds change, it must meet a series of stringent technical and legal requirements to ensure maximum passenger safety.


Got a technical question about ropeways you want answered? Send your questions to 
gondola (at) creativeurbanprojects (dot) com in the subject heading and we’ll try to answer it.



Ask Tino: Limiting Speeds of Cable Propelled Transit, Gondolas and Trams?

Earlier this summer, we wanted to introduce a new segment to the Gondola Project called: Ask Tino.

The purpose of this feature is to allow readers to ask technical cable car questions. In turn, Tino Imhäuser, the Gondola Project’s veteran ropeway technician will personally help answer any of your inquiries.

So to kick this off we’ve received our first Ask Tino question:

Tino Imhäuser, Cable Car Technician

Tino Imhäuser, Cable Car Technician and World-Renowned Ropeway Extraordinaire!

Q: What is limiting the speed of Gondolas and Trams? Is it weight on the line, spacing of towers, physics of the cable?

A: We can not separate gondolas and trams with this question since they are both cable-hauled systems. The technical response to this question is, unfortunately, beyond the scope of this discussion here.

In general, speed limits in cable-drawn passenger transportation systems have not been reached yet. Currently, all ropeway manufacturers are already working on concepts and designs to increase speeds.

With that said, existing line speeds in CPT today mostly meet the needs and wants that derive from the market. Development efforts and the associated costs to push speeds higher are very costly and the number of necessary personnel (cable car development specialists) to accomplish this task are limited. So if and when the demand for faster systems increase, manufacturers will offer the appropriate solutions.

Nevertheless, the cost / benefit ratio, the length of a system, the number of stations, the distances between the stations and physical factors will largely determine the speed limits for a cable-hauled system.


Got a technical question about ropeways you want answered? Send your questions to gondola (at) creativeurbanprojects (dot) com with “Ask Tino” in the subject heading. 

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