Final Update: The Suncheon Bay PRT opened in April 2014 as “Skycube”. See following posts:
Update 2: The PRT has still not opened and Suncheon City said that it won’t begin operations until August. More information to come in additional post.
Update: The PRT line will not be opening as planned on April 20 and according to recent sightings at the venue, construction is still ongoing. Keep an eye out for updates.
Spring is not too far off and this April will see the opening of a new PRT (personal rapid transport) system in Suncheon Bay, a coastal eco-park in South Cheolla famous for its nature, wetlands and wildlife. The opening of the line will come sometime after the opening Suncheon Bay Garden Expo, an international festival which will be held for six months from April 20 to October 20. If you’re more interested in what the festival has to offer than the transport, check out the bottom of this post.
Over recent years since the city began improving the conditions of the nature reserves which surround the area, wildlife has flourished and as a result, over 3 million people now visit Suncheon Bay each year. Unfortunately this has endangered wildlife due to the increase in pollution from tourist traffic. One way that Suncheon City hopes to alleviate this problem is through a new personal rapid transit (PRT) system which will act as a new way for tourists to access Suncheon Bay Ecological Park.
Suncheon Bay’s PRT System – Transport on Demand
PRT systems have been popular for point to point access around the world and likewise the Suncheon Bay PRT line (also known as SC-PRT) will only have two stations; one located at the entrance to the Garden Expo next to the International Wetlands Center and the other in the “Buffer Area” next to the Suncheon Literature Museum.
The 4.6 km line runs parallel to the Suncheon-dong Stream, mud flats and reed fields of the bay. 1200 people an hour will be able to use the system which consists of 40 vehicles — each vehicle capable of transporting a maximum of six persons. The vehicles or “podcars” as they are referred to on some systems, can travel at a maximum speed of 50 km/hr and are fully automated. One major difference with the PRT system is that vehicles only operate when there are passengers, the opposite to the other transport systems where the passenger usually has to wait for the service to arrive.
Construction and operation of the line has been spearheaded by VECTUS, a subsidiary of POSCO that was originally incorporated as a UK company in 2005. The company set up a test track in Sweden in 2006 (video) and gained safety approval from the Swedish Rail Agency the following year. After signing an agreement with Suncheon City in 2011, POSCO began building the line six months later in June.
While the system seems perfect for keeping traffic away from the preserved area, as usual some are concerned as to whether the line will be able to open on time. Nevertheless, no schedule changes have been made and according to an article published last week, the line was already 93% complete as of February 3 with test operations already underway near the first station (S1). If there are no last minute changes, the line will open alongside the expo on April 20.
The International Garden Expo is an international event held by the AIPH and is held in a different country each year. With a 150 year history, the expo is especially well known in Europe and is focused on urban and environmental development. The expo will be divided into four areas, the Urban Area, Transitional Area, Buffer Area and Absolute Preservation Area. The four sections help protect major parts of the local environment, while bringing nature and wildlife up into the urban area.
One of the benefits of such an event is that facilities and installations aren’t removed once it is over — unlike other expos which often see remaining infrastructure become white elephants and are left unused. In the case of Suncheon Bay, it is hoped that revenue will outweigh the operating costs as gardens and wildlife continue to grow in the coming years. The expo is also expected to create a total of over 10,000 jobs and become a popular venue for school trips.
It will be interesting to see whether there are similar problems in regards to accommodation after the Formula 1 debacle in Yeongnam where there was a lack of hotels for participants alone, leaving some to stay at “love” motels in Gwangju. Hopefully Suncheon will be slightly more prepared and Yeosu should be able provide some accommodation support after holding the World Expo last year.
For more information about the event, check out the official website and the promotional video below.