The system, developed by ATS Ltd and BAA, will consist of a fleet of 18 low energy, battery powered, driverless vehicles capable of carrying around four passengers and their luggage, to travel along dedicated guide ways.
The system provides a quick and comfortable service, with near to no waiting at stations, as well as contributing to improved environmental performance.
Mark Bullock, Managing Director, Heathrow Airport said; "This innovative system forms part of BAA's plan to transform Heathrow, improve the passenger experience and reduce the environmental impact of our operation through the development of cutting edge, green transport solutions."
Phase one is under construction with 3.8km of guideway and 18 vehicles, linking Terminal 5 with the Business car park. The Heathrow PRT will be electrically powered, generate zero local emissions, and be typically 50% more energy efficient than the traditional buses. This will bring significant environmental improvements and help reduce congestion on airport roads.
BAA will host the first commercial application trial of PRT in 2009. Vehicles are guided along guide ways using laser sensors, which are embedded in the vehicle.
The vehicles are powered electrically via a battery pack. The central control system ensures that batteries are recharged, as necessary, when the vehicles are stationary.
Access points and destinations are a series of off-line stations which will be distributed around the network like bus stops or taxi ranks; positioned where they are needed. The passenger selects a destination and the central control system responds to this request by immediately allocating a vehicle on the required path and timing for that journey.
The central control system also ensures that empty vehicles are sent where they are needed to meet passenger demand. Simulations demonstrate that waiting times are negligible, averaging around 12 seconds. 95% of passengers are served in less than 1 minute.
The vehicles take the passenger to the desired destination on the best available route at speeds of up to 25mph. As a result, typical passenger times are reduced on average by 60% per journey.
Phase one of the Heathrow PRT system will open for passengers in 2009 following the opening of Terminal 5. Upon successful application and operation, the system will be extended across the airport, and in other urban locations.