Urban Light Transport System

Plenary on 2009-06-14
Session date: 
June 14, 2009
Question By: 
Richard Barnbrook
British National Party
Asked Of: 
Boris Johnson (Chair, TfL) and Sir Peter Hendy (Commissioner, TfL)


The Urban Light Transport System, currently being tested at Heathrow Airport, offers substantial economic and environmental advantages over conventional forms of transport. Does the Mayor support the concept of rolling out the ULTra transport system across London or will this be another fantastic British innovation either consigned to the scrap heap or poached by foreign companies.


Answer for Urban Light Transport System

Answer for Urban Light Transport System

Answered By: 
Boris Johnson (Chair, TfL) and Sir Peter Hendy (Commissioner, TfL)

The urban light transport system is currently being tested at Heathrow Airport and I am being asked whether we support the concept of the Urban Light Transport System and whether we want to roll it out across London or whether we are content to see it consigned to the scrap heap. I think it sounds like a very interesting scheme. We are certainly interested to look at it. I do not think it is the solution to mass transit in this city.

Richard Barnbrook (AM): Thank you, Mayor Boris. Happy New Year. Have you actually visited the ULTra test facility at Heathrow and do you have any plans to actually go and look over it? I believe the pods can take rucksacks, push bikes and also prams.

Boris Johnson (Chair, TfL): I have not seen it yet, though doubtless I will come across it in the course of my travels.

Richard Barnbrook (AM): I would like to continue a bit more with regards to the aspects of the whole of this Assembly on its environmental concerns regards less emissions and also the problems we are having with central Government not giving us our Docklands Light Railway in my borough of Barking and Dagenham, but that is another argument. The ULTra offers 60% saving in emissions compared to cars and also offers environmental advantages over conventional levels of transport.

The implication across London is that it would put London in a situation if we tried to implement this in holes that are left in our transport system as not only a trendsetter for other capital cities taking on modern technology with this being developed in Bristol here in Britain, but also make us a world leading capital city. More important than that in some respects is championing the green cause. So I put it back to you, is there any way that with that type of information laid in front of us that where we do have problems possibly facing us in not being able to extend for one reason or another the Docklands Light Railway. If this and from what I have seen from records and the footage of the promotion for this project it actually does work out to be cheaper than the Docklands Light Railway. Can this not be an interlude from taking from Becton through to Barking and Dagenham? In other locations I believe that it is going forward if I am correct, from Lewisham to Woolwich Arsenal, if it needs to continue along the Thames corridor. If this is an easier and cheaper transport link isn't that something that this Assembly and London should be looking into?

Boris Johnson (Chair, TfL): I have already, Chair, given my general reaction which is I do not think the ULTra System offers much increase in capacity for us in London, if any. Perhaps Peter could give a more detailed take on it?

Peter Hendy (Commissioner, TfL): One of the issues technically is that all of us in transport would like to see this thing work before anybody suggested it did anything else. Even when it does work at Heathrow its maximum capacity will be 540 people per hour, which is the sort of capacity on a transport link that you would expect to serve with a single deck bus. The sorts of links that we are talking about with significant housing developments if they could be afforded are ones like the Docklands Light Railway where the trains, which will be six carriages, can carry 600 people on a train. The developments would be intensive enough to give real benefit to London. So I think that the problem from a transport perspective is that this is a solution looking for a problem, which is actually a rather small solution to development problems which are measured in London scales in thousands of people per hour and in very large-scale developments.

Richard Barnbrook (AM): Well again, I would like to come back on this. It has proven to work in Bristol on larger scales. At the moment the pods can only sit four people, but again it is one part of changing transport abilities for London to be looked at a little bit more seriously. If the capacity is quite small at this moment in time I am sure that it can be, with the skills going on at the moment in Bristol, extended. Again, it is the fact that we can have the trains, the buses, the Tubes, cars and everything else going on. One little niche filling holes that we cannot necessarily afford to fill on larger scale projects could simply be a full stop within that. Thank you.