Dubai to explore 'sky rail' with Chinese company behind panda express

City in early talks with Zhong Tang Sky Railway Group on futuristic transport network

Dubai has signed an early-stage deal with a Chinese "sky rail" company to look at bringing a new transport network to the emirate.

The Roads and Transport Authority and Zhong Tang Sky Railway Group will explore "futuristic transport systems".

Zhong Tang group is behind a project that was trialled in Chengdu, south-west China. The rail system made headlines for its cute panda-themed carriages.

It is understood the company's sky pod design is one of five under consideration for Dubai.

We aim to develop advanced futuristic transport systems and improve the sustainable transport network to encourage people to use public transport

Abdul Mohsen Younes, Roads and Transport Authority

“Realising this objective requires developing advanced futuristic transport systems and improving the sustainable transport network in Dubai to encourage people to use public transport,” said Abdul Mohsen Younes, chief executive of the RTA’s Rail Agency.

“The ultimate objective is to rank Dubai as the best place for living and business, a destination for visitors, and the smartest and happiest city in the world.”

The suspended monorail in Chengdu runs five metres off the ground and reached speeds of about 60km per hour during testing. It is yet to be expanded in the city, which is the global home of panda breeding.

The 1.4-kilometre-long track near Chengdu Shuangliu Airport has a capability to carry up to 230 passengers at a time.

Carriages are powered by lithium batteries instead of electricity.

Dubai already has a two-line metro network, with both elevated and underground sections, which was widely credited as tackling crippling traffic congestion when it launched a decade ago.

The emirate also has a monorail service on the Palm Jumeirah and a tram service.

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Sharjah's sky pod system in action - in pictures

The RTA deal came a day after the first passengers were given a trial of new Sharjah's sky rail at Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park.

USky Transport of Belarus unveiled its version of a sky rail network.

A working 400-metre test track can carry luxury passenger pods at up to 50 kph, with a cargo line also in operation to transport freight containers.

Developers will take it on to a 2.4km test track by November.

The company has signed a similar agreement in the UAE ahead of construction of a permanent commercial line.

Dubai in market for new mass transit systems

A destination for either sky rail service has yet to be announced, but the technology will have capacity to transport cargo and passengers between key transit points.

Meanwhile other high-speed travel alternatives include a hyperloop system capable of transporting capsules at speeds approaching 1,080kph inside a vacuum tube.

It is not likely to be commercially available until at least 2030.

In November, the DP World-backed Virgin Hyperloop conducted the first successful passenger trip along a 500 metre test track in Las Vegas.

Similar trials are under way with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies in Toulouse, France.

The use of suspended sky-rail transport in Dubai aims to accelerate the mobility of people, provide more affordable transport, encourage community use and curb traffic congestion.

When the city's Urban Master Plan 2040 was unveiled earlier this year, it predicted a boom in population from about 3.3 million in 2020 to 5.8 million by 2040.

“The RTA is aligning its efforts with the national agenda to nurture a sustainable environment in terms of air quality and reliance on clean energy,” said Mr Younes.

“Signing agreements with a host of specialist companies in the development of suspended transport systems will identify the technologies used in this sort of mass transit means."

Updated: June 10, 2021 08:32 PM

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