Many vendors may get on board first PodCar project

June 30, 2012

The race to introduce the country’s first personal rapid transit (PRT) system in Amritsar shows signs of heating up.

The project — for which the Punjab Government has invited bids under the Swiss Challenge method, following a proposal from UK-based ULTra — has attracted more suitors.

At least two competing vendors in the PRT space — Swedish firm Vectus and US-based Skytran — have approached the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) in this connection, according to industry sources in the know.

A PRT system is a hybrid of a train and a car — small, driverless, battery-powered vehicles with seating for six that ferry people from point to point on slender, special-purpose tracks. Operated by a central control system, the PRT can have tracks at ground-level or elevated.


Under the Swiss challenge method, after receiving an unsolicited proposal from a project proponent, the Government floats an open tender inviting more players/challengers to come up with a better offer. The Government takes the step if it finds the project proposal unique and in public interest.

This project is closely watched because Amritsar could be the country’s first city and among a handful worldwide — namely London (UK), Uppsala (Sweden), Suncheon (Korea) — to have a PRT system.

The competition

ULTra-Fairwood — the project proponent for Amritsar — has offered to operate a PRT system on a 3.3-km stretch connecting the city’s Golden Temple with three destinations, including the railway station. The project cost — in its present form — is likely to be about Rs 200 crore.

ULTra (Urban light rapid transit), which owns the PodCar PRT technology, has concluded trials on its 4-km track at London’s Heathrow airport.

SkyTran — another PRT system based on magnetic levitation — is being test-run at the NASA Ames Research Centre, Mountain View, California. When contacted by Business Line, SkyTran’s Chairman and CEO Mr Jerry Sanders said the company was keen on the Amritsar project. Mr Sanders confirmed the company was in talks with PIDB, and is looking for a partner to bid for the project. However, it has not decided yet on becoming a challenger.

Vectus, with investments from Posco, is a PRT system that is being implemented in Suncheon, Korea.

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