ULTra PRT System

ULTra PRT System
29 February 2016

Ricardo Rail worked with the Railway Technology Strategy Centre (RTSC) at Imperial College London to perform an independent assessment of the technical deliverables and contract compliance of the R&D activities, for the initial development of the ‘ULTra’ PRT system.

The work was to assure the UK government with regard to the management of responsibilities under an R&D support contract, including an independent opinion on the technical feasibility and commercial viability of this innovative design, which was required as the project was in receipt of public funding.


On behalf of the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (now the Department for Transport), Ricardo Rail worked with specialists at RTCS and the developer ATS Ltd, to provide a comprehensive independent assessment of the:

• System requirements
• Safety
• Design and manufacture of prototype vehicle
• Design and construction of a test circuit
• Development of a control system for automatic operation (FROG navigation system)
• Demonstrations and passenger trials
• Operational strategy
• Environmental Impact
• Reliability and Availability
• System capacity
• Whole life cost

Conducted in an open, transparent and constructive manner, the assessment ensured that all parties were fully consulted throughout the process.

During the assessment a number of issues were identified and addressed which would help improve the system’s technical and commercial viability.

About the ULTra system

The system consists of lightweight, driverless electric vehicles running on special-purpose guideways, providing on-demand, non-stop point-to-point transport.  Each pod can carry up to four passengers with room for wheelchairs, pushchairs and luggage.

The system is one of the most environmentally friendly forms of transit: 50% more energy-efficient than buses or trains with 70% less carbon emissions than cars.

The first operational application of ULTra, connecting Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 to its Business Car Park, commenced  in May 2011.