Name Heathrow pod
Client – BAA, Heathrow
Location Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5, Business Car Park, London, England
Function Transport Business car park users between Business Car Park Terminal 5 and Terminal 5
Status Live operation from May 2011
Cost Approx £30m (around £17m to reprovide)
Description 3.8Km of Guideway with 21 vehicles connecting 3 stations, 2 within Business Car Park one in Terminal 5.

  • Each vehicle has 4 seats and enough room for accompanying luggage
  • The system is DDA compliant allowing ease of access for wheelchair users and includes hearing loops and raised symbols on all controls for the visually impaired.
  • The vehicle features a flat floor which aligns accurately with stations to allow safe and easy access for push chairs, wheelchairs, luggage and people, meeting the access requirements for both the UK (Disability Discrimination Act, DDA) and the US (Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA).
Capacity – The capacity of Heathrow pod is 164 vehicles per hour per direction. Equivalent to a maximum of 656 passengers per hour per direction.
Supplier ULTra PRT, Bristol, England
Benefits Passengers

  • Passenger transfer time between the car park and T5 is reduced from around 18 mins, for the bus service, to 6 mins for Heathrow pod.
  • There is virtually no waiting for vehicles as the vehicles are generally waiting in the stations for passengers and only travel on demand. Once commenced the journey is non-stop.
  • Passengers travel in their own passenger groups or on their own.

System Operator / Owner

  • There are no emissions at the point of use. The system uses lead acid batteries which are charged each time a vehicle enters the station.
  • The system is virtually silent in operation, a benefit to local residents.
Technical –
  • The system runs up to a maximum speed of 25 MPH (40KpH).
  • The system is controlled on a synchronous basis with no vehicle being dispatched without a time slot allocated to it on the guideway
  • Headway (time between vehicles) is 6 seconds minimum. A fixed block detection system (AVP) is built into the track to ensure this separation is maintained.
  • Vehicles are controlled via a Central Control System
  • Vehicles are powered by lead acid batteries which are recharged after every trip in the station berths.
  • Each vehicle has 2 way communications between the operator and passenger. On board CCTV and heating/cooling are provided.
  • On board LCD screens  display journey status and any useful passenger messages.
  • A “snow and Ice” vehicle is available which operates when snow and ice are expected and keeps the guideway clear by applying low concentrations of de-icer.
  • Guideway construction is concrete plank running surface on a steel structure. Fixed to concrete block foundations.
  • A CCTV system oversees the entire track for safety and security reasons
Safety Heathrow pod falls under the Rail and Other Guided Systems legislation (ROGS). Approval to operate has been obtained by means of assessment by a “competent person” as defined under ROGS.
Contributors The following organisations played a key part in the design and development of Heathrow pod

  • Gebler Tooth – Architects
  • Arup – Structural Design
  • Doig and Smith – Cost Management
  • Gary Davis Associates – Ergonomic advice
  • ARRK – Vehicle Manufacture
  • Laing O’Rourke – Construction
  • BAA – Passenger Experience Design
  • MoMat – Passenger Experience Design
  • Venture 3 – Marketing and Branding advice
  • First Co – Engineering Maintenance support
  • Lea+Elliott – Commissioning and Testing advice