DIFC set to build first commercial PRT network

14 October 2005
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is expected to issue in November a tender for a contract to design and build a personal rapid transit (PRT) system within the complex. Once completed, the 1.2-kilometre-long network will be the first fully-functioning commercial application of a PRT system anywhere in the world.

The PRT concept is based on dozens of small four-six passenger driverless vehicles supported by lightweight guideways. The system is fully automated, with traffic fully computer-controlled, transporting passengers between DIFC buildings. The network will not connect directly with the planned Dubai light rail transport (LRT) station at the complex, but is likely to be connected to the station by express moving walkways. Space has already been left inside the DIFC buildings for the network to run through.

The lightweight nature of the vehicles means infrastructure costs are reduced as the guideways can carry lighter loads. The vehicles are electric and less costly to power and maintain, while the system is far quicker than conventional buses.

However, although it has been around for more than 30 years, PRT technology is still experimental, and has yet to be applied commercially anywhere. Few companies provide PRT technology. They include the UK's Advanced Transport Systems (ATS), the US' Taxi 2000and Frog Navigation Systemsof the Netherlands. Estimated costs for installation, supply of vehicles and maintenance is expected to be upwards of $100 million. Construction and testing is expected to take at least two years. France's Systrais the consultant.

The project is one of several transport solutions for the various developments in Dubai. Other schemes include a tram system running from the Burj al-Arab to Jumeirah Beach Residence, and the Palm Jumeirah monorail (MEED 9:9:05; 5:8:05).


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