POSCO has partnered with Suncheon Eco Trans to create the nation’s first unmanned train, SkyCube. SkyCube was officially opened on April 19 and is Korea’s first Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). What is PRT? Let’s find out!
What is SkyCube?
SkyCube will provide an accessible means of transportation to experience the great natural surroundings found in Suncheon. Suncheon Eco Trans’ SkyCube was made possible through investments between POSCO and Suncheon City’s Private Enterprise Investment Agreement. As the nation’s first PRT, it is a big deal. SkyCube runs for 4.64 km from Suncheon’s Dream Bridge to Suncheon’s Literature Center. The path that it runs is surrounded by the beautiful scenery of Suncheon.
Pictured here: PRT car passing through the track
SkyCube has a total of 40 cubicles and is a unique system in that it allows the surrounding environment to be preserved. The implications of these benefits may prove to be beneficial for transportation systems built in the future.
Reasons to Visit Suncheon
Pictured here: PRT routes in Suncheon that preserve the natural environment
Suncheon is a unique wetland ecosystem that needs to be preserved as much as possible. SkyCube passengers can enjoy superb views of Suncheon. The area in which SkyCube runs is a vast natural wetlands area with 120 native marsh plants and over 240 species of migratory birds. It is currently registered within the Ramsar Convention which is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands. In 2006, the Korean Tourism Organization selected Suncheon as one of the top 5 wetlands in the world.
Pictured here: Suncheon Bay Garden (Photo from http://bit.ly/PJSJTB)
Besides, Suncheon Bay Garden, which opened on April 20, became a landmark after successfully completing the very first Korean garden festival, ‘Suncheon Bay Garden Expo 2013’. Suncheon Bay Garden consists of Cypress Forest and Autumn Tint Path and more, divided into sections in accordance to the tree species and features various themed attractions such as Meditation Path and Meditation Place. While there are many places to visit throughout the Korean peninsula, many people recommend the ‘ecological tourist travel course’ in Suncheon.
Pictured here: Suncheon Eco Trans opening ceremony
What is the Significance of SkyCube?
In January 2011, POSCO and Suncheon signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the basis of jointly developing technology for the nation’s unique state-of-the-art transportation system. A test track was set up in Sweden and the system performance was verified to meet the safety requirements of northern Europe. The culmination of these efforts was precisely “SkyCube”.
Pictured here: Beautiful natural scenery as scene from the PRT
The technology behind SkyCube is more economical compared to former technologies as the train can be controlled 24 hours without human involvement. With the same transportation capabilities, PRT are more cost-efficient in terms of construction as well as operating costs. SkyCube advantage is it is an eco-friendly solution since the PRT system runs on electric energy 100% and therefore does not generate exhaust emissions.
Moreover, polyurethane coated wheels were used in lieu of steel wheels in order to reduce noise and preserve the natural environment.
For these reasons, this state-of-the-art transportation technology seamlessly fits in with the natural ecosystem.
Pictured here: Internal arrangement of the PRT which is being seen as the future for eco-friendly transportation
The Advantages of the PRT System
Pictured here: PRT cars waiting at a station
PRT is an ecofriendly alternative to the regular public transport system. The system covers all necessary elements for the best green transportation solution including punctuality, safety, reliability, accessibility and privacy. Installation and operation is possible even in urban areas and short interval stops, with distance of 1 to 2 minutes, is achievable.
Unlike existing public transportation that runs on predetermined timetables, PRT runs based on passenger needs. At times when there are not many passengers, empty cars will wait before passing through stops and during rush hours, nearby cars will be called to meet service needs. Passengers do not need to wait over one minute for the PRT. Like taxis, passengers can get on the PRT and travel to their final destination without making stops in between. Passengers can have their privacy and travel within efficient timeframes.
System installation costs about 1/10th of the cost it takes to build subway systems. They are also 1/3rd the cost of light rail train systems and capacity is about the same. Because operation of PRT is automatic, cost efficiency is high and costs can be further reduced if cars are not operated when there are no passengers. PRT is an advantageous solution for development of new cities or new routes or advancements to existing routes.
Capable of being constructed with 90cm of concrete, 60cm of steel, the PRT tracks have the flexibility to be installed on main roads as well as sharp curves.
Pictured here: SkyCube passing through a station
Foreign PRT Systems
First developed in the 1970s, a small track rail system for 20 people was developed at Morgantown West Virginia University. PRT (Personal Rapid Transition) and GRT (Group Rapid Transition) were used as routes to connect the college campus with the city.
This was followed by further developments in Japan, France and Germany. Of these, the Cabintaxi developed in Hamburg, Germany, was the most advanced. The Cabintaxi developed in 1970 was in commercialization stage in 1980 however due to German government budget issues, the full development was postponed indefinitely.
By 1990, the PRT was a step closer to becoming fully commercial, but was not readily available still. Many studies were in place, however many were stopped. Systems under current operation were ULTra in England and 2getthere in Netherlands.
Thus, SkyCube is a superior operating system that supplies electricity to the track by using a third rail. In addition, compared to competing systems, it has already received safety system certification and is recognized in the world market for excellence and responsiveness.