Monorail Systems – could they be an effective solution?


by Nicoletta Moss

Monorail Systems

Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

The President of Malta, George Vella, says yes: “Transport is one of the biggest contributors to pollution, and whilst we discuss having more electric cars, we should also start thinking about other methods of transportation. I have many times expressed the view that the monorail system would be effective for Malta.

Let’s have a closer look.

Monorails look cool, take less space up than underground systems, and can be also cheaper to build.  There are two versions: one where the train wraps themselves around the line at the bottom of the wagon – and then there is the version which hangs from the top. These are great for single lines, with no branches along the way, as these are complicated to build and hard to maintain. Some Monorails are already over 120 years in use like the “Schwebebahn” in Wuppertal, Germany. Others have been pulled down only after a few years of use, like the one in Sydney. 

The key to attracting ridership is the need to provide a transit system with efficient and reliable service through fully automated driverless operation, which not only provides enhanced reliability but also operational flexibility, reduced energy consumption and increased passenger safety, says Peter Timan on Springer.  

He continues stating that although monorail systems have been around for many years, only recent developments such as Bombardier’s INNOVIA Monorail 300 System have permitted transit authorities to now consider monorail as a mainstream contender to meet their mass transit requirements. Bombardier is one of the most established monorail suppliers – with a 50-year history and over 40 deployments worldwide 

But there are other interesting products on the market too. One I especially like are Cable Car solutions – with the best success story in La Paz, Bolivia. The system has not only transformed the city but does not depend on any subsidy.  Actually, it has made a surplus of $5.9MILLION in the four years since opening on fares of a few cents.  

It is particularly suited to Malta where travel distances are short, and the population numbers cannot justify the major capital expenditure of a rapid transport system. Unlike other cities, we don’t have a well-developed infrastructure yet in place such as underground or electric trains.

Photo by Skyline CableWays

A Cable way system is quick to construct, lines can be built in 10 months and are ideal for short distancesIt is a light touch form of infrastructure; it will produce tourist pull, additional revenue and extra tourist days. It takes up little road space and does not interact with or disrupt traffic It’s also a fun way to travel, says David Spencer from Skyline CableWays. 

Lines could be built along commercial thoroughfares and round-abouts can be used to install stops to get on and off. There could be several hubs across the island, where the commuter could switch over from one lane to the other or hop into alternative transport for the last mile, such as car sharing, ride pooling or micromobility. A Cable car system could be an eco-friendly additional puzzle piece in the urban mobility system.

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