Finding low-cost, high-quality methods of public transport is a struggle for airports trying to manage their overheads during a time of technological and physical expansion. ‘Airport cities’, often with multiple terminals that house extensive shopping, business and hotel infrastructure, require excellent internal transportation with short passenger transfer times.

While working to accommodate the growing number of people flying, airfields are also faced with challenge of avoiding any legal and social complications, such as an unacceptable rise in noise complaints or local pollution levels. Furthermore, growing airports increasingly need good intermodal connection points to outside services, such as city trains, to better link the site with its local hinterland.

This means they are seeking out experienced innovators with a track record in the transport sector to meet their needs, a description LEITNER ropeways embodies perfectly. "Since the early 1990s, our company has [placed] more than 25 automated people-mover (APM) systems in operation worldwide, in the US, Europe, Africa and Japan," says Alessandro Pivetta, project manager at LEITNER ropeways.

Gearless solutions

In order to meet airports’ changing needs, LEITNER ropeways has dedicated significant resources to product innovation in recent years. The company’s products still come with the wellknown security and reliability of traditional ropeway systems, but, according to Pivetta, the company’s efforts have resulted in several breakthroughs for its clients. These developments include a new-generation suspension system for LEITNER ropeways’ vehicles, more flexible vehicle types and LEITNER DirectDrive; a gearless drive-propulsion system. The DirectDrive design is based on the company’s own-brand LEITWIND permanent magnetic wind turbine generators, which have been successfully redesigned to work as motors.

"This new kind of propulsion system has since been implemented into over 140 ropeway systems," says Pivetta. "Without a gearbox, an engine sees drastic reductions in noise, friction and moving parts. It also requires less space and has lower energy consumption than a traditional engine design.

"Above all, eliminating the gearbox means removing the main source of failure, contributing to a safer and more reliable service for airline passengers. The underlying principle is simple, robust, efficient and extremely easy to maintain. It means an optimal output at low costs."

In airport settings, LEITNER ropeways transportation solutions offer passengers a seamless connection to their gates, as fast and conveniently as possible. The people-mover market in the airport passenger movement category is now a global market, and the world is increasingly taking the company’s model of ropepropelled technology seriously, as the need for cost-effective but reliable transport solutions becomes apparent.

MiniMetro: effective and eco-friendly

Systems like MiniMetro, an innovative urban transport system created by LEITNER ropeways, are becoming popular purchases. The rail-based, rope-driven design answers the twin problems of environmental sensitivity and growing financial pressure that face many airports today. Capable of covering routes of up to 8km, the vehicle offers an urban transport service comparable to buses and trams, with a smaller footprint, quieter service and the capacity to climb slopes that competing transport systems simply cannot surmount.

It is also proving popular among passengers. Operating in the Italian city of Perugia since 2008, the MiniMetro system there recently achieved a 98% satisfaction rate among its users, according to an opinion poll organised by a leading Italian customer survey company.

"With a 99.9% availability rate and nearly three million passengers transported every year, the Perugia MiniMetro has surpassed any expectations we might have had about it," says Pivetta. "Other cities with MiniMetros include Pisa, Zürich, Miami, Frankfurt, Cairo and Innsbruck. In addition to the success of Perugia, these cities are great examples of the kind of reliable transport systems that LEITNER ropeways can produce, also for airports in terms of urban passenger transportation."