Autonomous monorail shuttle from Bologna airport to train station went into service

The Bologna ‘people mover’ by Marconi Express is the first monorail in Italy to connect the high-speed railway network with one of the top 10 national airports for passenger traffic. The first service run of the line was on november 18. The fully automated monorail connects the Bologna Centrale railway station to the Guglielmo Marconi airport with a travel time of just over 7 minutes. 

The Marconi Express allows people to reach the center and the station of Bologna in less than ten minutes from the Guglielmo Marconi airport. The objective is to create a comfortable, fast and frequent connection to the city that improves the travel experience for citizens and tourists. Also, the aim is to expand the use of the Bologna airport by making its flight offer ‘within reach of the train’. The service will operate seven days a week, 365 days a year, from 5.40 hours until midnight.

According to Marconi Express, the autonomous shuttle can take thousands of cars off the roads. The integrated photovoltaic panels on the running track produce about 35 percent of the energy necessary for its operation. This would reduce 300 tons of carbon dioxide per year, comparable to the effect of about 14,000 trees.

Prepared for rise in passenger numbers

Due to the ongoing health emergency of Covid-19, trips will initially be guaranteed every 15 minutes (instead of every 7), with a capacity at 50 percent and limited use to passengers on Marconi flights, airport workers, residents and workers of the Lazzaretto district.

“We are finally here”, says the president of Marconi Express Spa, Rita Finzi. “With the Marconi Express Bologna gains a new important piece that increases the attractiveness of the area and which will be strategic for the revival of the economy and tourism. We are comforted by the news about the development of vaccines to stem the coronavirus, therefore it is essential to be ready for when the number of travelers passing through the Marconi airport will rise”.

Elevated rails

The coordinated design of the infrastructure was carried out by the engineering companies MATE Engineering and STS of Bologna, while the architectural design is by Massimo Iosa Ghini. The route runs along a 5 kilometer long elevated runway, therefore not interfering with road traffic. Halfway along the route there is the Lazzaretto intermediate station which houses the operations center, the “brain” of the system from which operators monitor the vehicles. There also the maintenance area, remittances and electrical transformer substations to power the shuttles are housed.

The bypass bridge over the ring road has a free span of 90 meters and is characterised by two large portals designed by architect Iosa Ghini.

The route of the Marconi Express from Bolgona Aiport to the central train station

Monorail vehicles

The vehicles and the management system are manufactured by Swiss company Intamin Transportation. Similar monorails are present in China, Korea, Turkmenistan and Nigeria. The vehicles supplied to the Marconi Express are 3 of the P30 model: each vehicle has a capacity of 50 passengers, divided into two compartments of equal size. They are equipped with rubber wheels and run on their own premises at an average height from the ground level of about 6 to 7 meters.

The electric shuttles can reach 70 kilometres per hour and allow to give the system a commercial speed of 40 kilometres per hour. With this configuration, the Marconi Express can carry 570 passengers per hour in each direction. There is also the possibility of introducing a fourth vehicle to adapt to any growth in demand. The structurally complex points of the infrastructure, the bridge and underpass of the railway line, are already prepared for a possible doubling of the track.

Monitoring

The autonomous vehicles are monitored by operators present in the control room. On the quay, sliding doors prevent passengers from accessing the runway when the vehicle is not present. When the Marconi Express is at the station, its doors open in correspondence with the sliding doors of the quay and create a safe passage without differences in height to be able to get easily on and off the vehicle.

Another feature of Marconi Express technology is that of adapting the frequency of the line in real time to the demand of the moment. This flexibility, in addition to having benefits for customers, also allows for the optimization of infrastructure management costs.

Author: Esther Geerts

Editor of RailTech.com

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