A groundbreaking technology that has been heralded as “revolutionising inner-city transport” has been launched in Shildon, in county Durham.
The floc® technology was developed by UK startup Urban.MASS and features lightweight driverless electric “pods” that have the ability to travel both on roads and on newly-constructed above-ground rail tracks.
Passengers can be picked up roadside, but, where possible, pods will avoid traffic by elevating to the above-ground Duo Rail track, which is powered by overhead solar canopies.
The technology is the first of its kind. It will combine both door-to-door on-demand ride hailing transport with high-frequency, accessible and sustainable mass transit, providing zero-emission journeys across cities for both passengers and cargo.
The elevated Duo Rail track can run above existing roads and infrastructure, giving a physical footprint 70% smaller than a typical urban light railway system.
Due to its “pop up” construction, sections of the prefabricated Duo Rail can be installed in a matter of days. This flexible and modular design means addition or adaptation of tracks can be carried out easily, and the system as a whole costs half the price of a traditional light railway.
Shildon is to be the host of the first fully-operational site, which will open in 2025 at the National Railway Museum and mark 200 years since the first passenger locomotive – Stephenson’s Locomotion – launched from the same site.
The northeast town has also been selected as it offers opportunities to see how the technology handles obstacles including a road bridge, railway lines, and public walkways. Shildon will host three pod stations, one on road level, one above ground on the Duo Rail, and one in between where pods can transfer between ground level and the above ground track.
Following the launch in Shildon, the first major city to implement the floc® technology will be Kampala in Uganda. Urban.MASS has plans for 10 locations in the UK and internationally by 2030.
To support this growth, Urban.MASS has signed partnership agreements with WSP and Grimshaw.
Urban.MASS chief executive Kevin O’Grady said: “It’s almost 200 years since the United Kingdom invented passenger rail – it’s time to once again set a new global precedent and upend the status quo of transport. With massive demand from cities right across the world, it’s clear that people everywhere recognise the need for a new technology to dramatically change our transport systems for the next 200 years.
“Our affordable and accessible system delivers twice the track for half the cost, with an unrivalled customer experience.”
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