Update February 10, 2017: As we’ve alluded to in our original post, filtering and interpreting Soviet-era information with a high degree of precision is proving to be a little more challenging than we first expected.
To compound these difficulties, we’ve learned this week that much of the history for Georgian/Tbilisi ropeways may have been lost forever. During the tumultuous times in the 90s, the central ropeway repository along with other historical archives were subject to, how you would say, collateral damage (read: burned down). As a result, much of the data and knowledge is only available through word-of-mouth at this time.
While this is undoubtedly terrible news, we do have some good findings to share. Thanks to reader Irakli Z’s incredible research skills, it appears that there were actually many more ropeways we didn’t list in the original article. In fact, during Soviet times, up to 10 urban ropeways (or 11 if you count one that was partially constructed) were built!
Hopefully we can compile the data and share it online while we still can. At this time, we’ve updated the map to reflect these changes and will continue to provide findings (and hopefully not lack thereof) as it comes.
The mountainous terrain of Algeria poses a unique challenge for urban planners and developers. To solve this problem, several Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) systems have been built in Algerian cities throughout the country. These include ropeway systems in Algiers, Skikda, Tlemcen and Constantine. The installation of these gondola networks has been crucial to improving traffic flow and mitigating vehicular congestion.
In particular, Constantine has experienced great success with its urban cable car. Known as the City of Bridges, the municipality has built numerous overpasses to improve connectivity throughout the city’s challenging terrain. However, with rapid growth in the city, many of the existing bridges became overwhelmed. After much contemplation by city officials, the plan to construct the Constantine Cable Car (French: Télécabine de Constantine) was finally conceived in late 2006, and by June 2008, the system opened to the public.
With the arrival of the gondola, 100,000 residents in the city’s northern quarters were benefitted alongside 5,000 hospital workers.
The Constantine Cable Car is an MDG system built by the Doppelmayr Garaventa Group that transports passengers across the Rhumel Gorge. The system was designed with thirty-three 15-person cabins and an initial capacity of 2,000 pphpd. However, the capacity is expandable to 2,400 pphpd should passenger flows increase in the future.
The cable car makes 3 stops along its 7-minute journey: Terrain Tannoudji, Ben Badis Hospital, and Place Tatache. Since opening, the cable car has been an incredible success carrying 4.5 million passengers in its first year of operation and reaching 12 million passengers by 2012. This urban gondola is another example of how a CPT system can effectively enhance and complement a city’s existing infrastructure network.
|Trip time (minutes)||7|
|Capacity (pphpd)||2,000 (expandable to 2,400)|
- 3 Algerian Telecabine Videos
- Algerian Gondolas
- The Problem With Téléphériques
- 23 Algerian Gondolas?
- The Algiers Téléphériques
In the 8 years in which the Gondola Project has been online, our team has been on a journey to uncover the secrets of the urban gondola world and to share that knowledge with our readers. Most recently, a fellow researcher has helped our team learn more about the fascinating passenger cable lifts in Georgia (the country, not state).
To many North Americans (ourselves included), this developing democracy remains a bit of an enigma — located in the Caucasus Mountains surrounded by Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Black Sea, Georgia’s unique geopolitical context, complex history and distinct language has often meant that it operated under the radar of English-speakers. However, this small country’s relationship with ropeway technology is arguably as rich as any of its counterparts in the Alps.
Before Georgia gained full independence in 1991, the country was an integral part of the Russian empire. According to researcher Irakli Z., Georgia was the heart and soul of the Soviet Union’s ropeway industry as it was the country’s only manufacturer of cable cars.
Although Georgia is relatively small (about the same size as Ireland), an estimated 62-75 passenger ropeways have been built since the 1950s. In the capital city alone, a total of 6 ropeways were constructed during Soviet times — many of which were still operational up until the 90s.
While we’ve yet to come across any specific sources which explains why each of these systems became non-operational, it might be safe to assume that a combination of the Soviet Union collapse (1991), the Georgian Civil War (1991-1993) and Russo-Georgian War (2008) contributed to, and accelerated the neglect of these ropeways.
Fortunately, if the pace of recent development is any indication of Tbilisi’s desire to modernize its infrastructure, then the prospects for urban cable cars looks incredibly promising.
A report released by the Asian Development Bank in 2013, suggests that the city’s public transit company (Tbilisi Transport) already provides 1.15 million trips per year on its ropeway.
At this time of this article’s writing, three cable propelled systems provide recreational transport service:
- Narikala Ropeway (2012) by LEITNER Ropeways
- Tbilisi Funicular (modernized 2013) by Doppelmayr/Garaventa
- Turtle Lake Ropeway (modernized 2016)
A full list of all the ropeways can be viewed in the map below. Note that while Google Translate has improved a lot, interpretational challenges still remain. If we have misinterpreted any information/details, please let us know in the comments section or email us email@example.com.
Overall, in this 3-part series, our hope is that we can help shed light on the many historical and modern Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) installations in Tbilisi, and to examine what the future might hold for urban gondolas in the Georgian capital.
Stay tuned for more.
Big thank you goes out to Irakli Z. for translating and sharing his research. If you would like to get involved in the Gondola Project, visit this page here.
This may surprise some readers, but Chiatura — a small mining town of 15,000 residents in Georgia — was once a major urban cable car hub.
Chiatura’s love affair with cable cars began in the 1950s when Soviet officials decided to implement ropeways as an efficient way to traverse the town’s rugged and steep river valley. The cable lifts were designed to transport workers living in the valley to the industrial facilities located at the top.
According to some estimates, some 12-17 ropeways are still operational today. However, most of the systems are in dire need of upgrades and fail to meet modern safety standards.
In recent years, passenger service on some cable lifts have been suspended while the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia started plans to rehabilitate and reconstruct the city’s once majestic aerial fleet. Last week, the government released a video and images showing the public its current plans.
The new investment totalled four lines which was spread over 3,428m of ropeways.
- Sanatorium (სანატორიუმი) – 862m
- Naguti (ნაგუთი) – 1,081m
- Lezhubani (ლეჟუბანი) – 845m
- Mukhadze (მუხაძე ) – 640m
At the time of writing, it appears that the ropeways operating from the “central station” are already under construction while the Mukhadze system is still in the design stage. Overall, if everything goes according to plan, the US$15 million (GEL 40 million) project will open for passenger service by Fall 2017.
For more photos and information about the project, click here.
A big thank you to Gondola Project reader, Irakli Ika, for the sharing with us the links and translations. If there is anything we missed, or misinterpreted, let us know in the comments below, message us on Facebook, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.