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How a “Willy Wonka” style elevator aims to ease pressure on metro stations.

Posted by Luke Upton on Jun 29, 2016

Resized_MULTI_for_Metros_image_2.jpgIn cities across the world, rapid population growth is placing unprecedented challenges on urban mobility and efficiency. To give you a scale of the challenge, London's population is growing at a rate of 1.5% year-on-year, reaching almost 8.6 million in 2015 and has seen passenger numbers rise by 33% in the past decade. Some 1.34 billion passengers now use the underground in the UK capital every year. Implementing new technology at key city transport hubs is essential to get people from A to B as effectively as possible. In response to this growth thyssenkrupp are offering an innovative new solution to help ease these pressures by rethinking elevators in rail and metro stations.

Metro stations are complex infrastructures that often connect several rail lines overlapping in a very restricted space. The capital’s busiest tube station, London Waterloo, handles 95 million passengers every year and the deepest platform in the network is 58 meters below street level, at Hampstead.

The elevators required to move passengers are sometimes a neglected piece of the planning, and thyssenkrupp are aiming to change this with the MULTI, the world’s first horizontal/vertical ‘Willy Wonka’ ( Ed.a character in Roald Dahl's 1964 classic children's novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory whose elevator could take you "up and down, sideways, slantways, and any other way you can think of." style elevator that aims to literally open up new directions of travel in underground transport hubs.

Resized_MULTI_for_Metros_image_1.jpgMULTI breaks the 160-year tradition of rope-driven elevators and has been designed to increase passenger shaft capacity by 50%.  It does this by enabling multiple cabins to travel safely up one shaft and down another in a single continuous loop, much like a circular shuttle. The only visible difference to passengers is that the doors can open every 15 to 30 seconds.

Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO at technology leader thyssenkrupp Elevator ( @TKE_Americas ) told SmartRail World: “MULTI was initially developed for tall buildings, to double elevator shaft capacity, reduce elevator footprint, and offer vertical and horizontal movement to enable architects to construct taller, more creative and more user friendly structures, but its concept makes it a prime solution to the challenges of metro stations as well. If applied it would undoubtedly change the face of London’s transport network, and reinforce the UK’s position at the head of global innovations.”

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Hypothetically speaking, from thyssenkrupp’s end there is no major barrier to why this kind of technology couldn’t be installed in these underground spaces. At present its application in underground stations in London and around the world is just a concept to reduce mobility and congestion issues however.

We spoke to Chris Williamson co-founder and partner at architecture firm Weston Williamson + Partners, whose clients include Crossrail 1 & 2, HS2, London Underground Limited, and Docklands Light Railway to tell us if this was possible:

“The original submerging of train lines underground was absolutely revolutionary for its time, but as passenger demand continues to rise it is unsurprising that the sub-ground location of these lines make it incredibly difficult for developers to bring them up-to-date with modern capacity and access requirements. For most commuters it is equally as important to swiftly and comfortably access the deepest platform as it is to move quickly from station A to B. Rope-less elevator technology, like the MULTI system designed by thyssenkrupp Elevator, has the potential to redefine existing infrastructure, and open up unprecedented levels of access both in-between platforms, and from the platforms to the world above.”

“This kind of innovation is key for future city design and could provide a game-changing solution to solve the mobility issues that so many underground networks now face. What’s more – it could also allow further growth of stations below the ground, making it possible to build new train lines underneath the existing ones, to increase capacity even further” concluded Willamson.

MULTI is currently being installed to initiate testing stage at thyssenkrupp’s purpose-built Test Tower with the first working installation expected in 2017. We’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date on the latest! 

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Topics: Passenger Information Systems, smartcities

Luke Upton

Written by Luke Upton

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