Designed right, ropeway technology makes an excellent complement to urban transit. Naturally, a crucial element of that right ropeway design must be the rope itself. In this article, we’d like to look at which rope could suit crowded cities best.
Among the many issues designers need to consider, environmental impact steals the headlines at the planning stages, but maintenance time and costs — all of the inevitable downtime — is what people notice later. The right rope will help at both stages.
So what does an urban environment require? Firstly, you should choose a rope that can travel at high speeds and carry a great deal of weight for long hours. All ropes gradually wear and eventually need to be replaced. To minimize downtime, the key is to select one that lasts longer. You also want to consider a rope that lessens the environmental impact.
The only product we know of that fulfills these needs and was specifically designed for city use is the Performa-DT® from FATZER®. Earlier this year, it was recognized for its innovativeness in design with a Red Dot Award.
So what makes Performa-DT right for urban gondolas? Its reduced vibrations, noise and elongation — in short, performance.
First there’s the speed and strength. The initials DT are short for detachable. This rope is specifically designed for gondolas or chairlifts that detach in the station. The net benefit? The rope needn’t slow while the gondola car unloads and fills up with passengers. (Its smaller-in-diameter sister product, Performa rope, was designed for those automatic people movers you see mainly in airports, which are clamped and do not detach.)
Next there’s endurance. Any transit system requires regular maintenance but that means downtime. Part of your cable car system’s maintenance retinue entails switching the ropes when they’ve reached their best-before date.
All ropes wear but, according to its producers, the Performa-DT should last from 2.5 to 3 times longer than a typical rope.
“Normally a rope stretches slightly each year,” says Daniel Graf, Head of Transportation Ropes at Fatzer. “Performa stretches far less. Therefor there is no need for a shortening of the rope in the first year. We call this ‘reduced settlement’.”
The company has its own ropeway test installation in Romanshorn Switzerland, where they perform ‘cycle testing’. Looking like a complete mini gondola system, which they call the world’s fastest ropeway in this video, the installation contains two full-sized bull wheels just metres apart. Its producers can accelerate a given rope’s ending cycles — that is, when the rope needs to be replaced — by testing it on this very short system. Consider. The greatest amount of wear and tear on a rope happens when it cycles past the bullwheel, bending the metal fibres and plastic. Bending then straightening it 24/7 at high speeds for months, they learn its strengths, weaknesses and length of life.
Of course, then there’s the real world. How does the Performa-DT perform here?
In 2014, Barcelona replaced its Teleferic de Montjuic ropeway with an appropriately gauged Performa-DT. The results have made for an excellent before/after case study. The clients recently reported the elongation was has been very low and “after 22,000 hours of operation, we need not provide for a shortening of the rope.”
But what about the aforementioned environmental benefits?
Taking cars off roads and putting their riders into electric powered gondolas is one obvious environmental plus of ropeway technology, but there other considerations in urban environments. A big one is noise. The ambient hum of a ropeway is far preferable to the loud revving of a passing diesel bus — but the Performa-DT goes further, lessening that hum considerably.
In Barcelona, “Vibrations caused by the rope passage on line sheaves is considerably reduced. It is particularly noticeable in the absence of vibrations in the towers structures and increasing the comfort of the cabins.” Which makes for happier riders.
However, the vibration and hum are part of a larger issue too: expended energy through friction. Again in Barcelona, “bullwheels and sheaves linings wear is decreased. It consequently brings lower power consumption due to the lower friction of the rope with all different rolling elements.”
How would it fare your city?