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Pod-cars to link major work centres

S. Anil Radhakrishnan
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Traffic studies onfeasibility of PRT begin

The city can soon look forward to automated driverless battery-operated pod-cars running on elevated guideways linking bus and rail terminals at Thampanoor and East Fort with major work centres.

Being introduced as part of improving the public transport system, the pod-cars are part of an innovative transport mode called the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system proposed on select routes.

Finance Minister K.M. Mani has allocated Rs.25 lakh in the 2012-13 State Budget for preliminary work on the PRT in the capital and Kottayam.

The PRT will use small, automated battery-operated pod-cars running on elevated guideways along major road corridors. The guideways can be single column- or double column-support in steel or concrete depending on passenger demand. The minimum width of a pillar will be one metre.

The elevated guideway will be 5.5 metres from the ground level. It will be taken through the sides of roads where there is no median. On the RR Lamp-Thampanoor stretch, the PRT will share the corridor with the proposed monorail. A decision on taking it above the monorail or below it has to be made.

East Fort, Thampanoor, Secretariat, LMS, Palayam, Museum, Vellayambalam, and Kowdiar have been identified as the main stations. The major terminals will be at Thampanoor and East Fort, and the PRT will be linked to the work centres.

The proposal is to take up eight km of the system in the first phase. As it is a demand responsive transport system, it can be extended to any stretch.

Six-seater pods

Each pod will be able to carry up to six passengers from point to point along the identified routes at an average speed of 40 km per hour. The empty pods will wait offline at the stations. The passengers can select their destination from a touch screen kiosk at the station. The pod will choose the most economical route for each journey, travelling non-stop once the passenger gets into it and presses the start button.

The pods will be air-conditioned, spacious, and comfortable. Sensors will be attached on the front, rear, and sides of the pods. The pods will ply at an interval of 30 seconds. The speed is assured and the fares will be on a par or slightly above that of autorickshaws or taxis. Advanced navigation technology, light cargo capacity, on call, low carbon footprint, time saving, high capacity, rapid, intelligent, and easy and quick overlay in dense areas are the other key features of the system.

At the instance of Infrastructures Kerala Ltd. (INKEL) and Ultra Fairwood Pte Ltd., Singapore, the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (Natpac) has been asked to carry out detailed traffic studies on the feasibility of the PRT system. The traffic surveys began on Thursday. Travel particulars and other related information will be collected from the public at their residence, work place, bus stops, and bus and rail terminals in the city.

The cost of the PRT comes to Rs.50 crore to Rs.60 crore a km. The elevated guideway takes far less space than other forms of transit. The station and guideway design can also be customised to fit the site. “The project can be completed in 24 months at the rate of two km a month,” says T. Elangovan, Head, Traffic and Transportation, Natpac.

The PRT is in operation at Heathrow airport in London. In the country, the PRT will be introduced in eight km in Amritsar and 105 km in Gurgaon.

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