Those passing in front of the International Salgado Filho Airport in Porto Alegre (capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's south region), are at least stricken by curiosity. In front of the passenger terminal, dozens of people are working on a concrete rail, with heights varying between 4.5 and 9 metres. The structure draws people’s attention not just because it is elevated, but also due to the winding bends throughout its route. This is the setup for Brazil's first Aeromovel commercial line.
Construction works are reaching their final stages and the rail tracks are being put in. At the beginning and end of the line, finishing work is being done to the two 450 square metre stations, which will have air conditioning and automatic doors. The two vehicles that will be used in the structure – one for 150 passengers and another for 300 people – were manufactured in Rio de Janeiro state’s inland area. Commercial operations are expected to start in the second half of 2013.
Inverted sail boat
The Aeromovel is an automated transport system for passengers, which moves along an elevated track. It is a light rail vehicle powered by air generated by industrial fans, which in turn are powered by electricity and control the pressure, speed and steering.
“The vehicle has a fixed propulsion plate in the chassis, sealed in the track. Then a high flow, low pressure air current blows onto the vehicle, pushing it forward and a suction system brings it back. The engine that generates the system’s pulling force is located outside the vehicle, making it simpler and lighter”, explains Diego Abs, director of engineering of Aeromovel Brasil S/A, company headquartered in the town of São Lourenço, in Porto Alegre's metropolitan region.
“The wheel and the track have different roles in relation to railway transport. The propulsion system is independent for each wheel. It is an inverted sailboat system, where the track itself is the wind tunnel", adds Oskar Coester, CEO of Aeromovel Brasil S/A and inventor of the technology.
In Porto Alegre, the route to be used by the Aeromovel system will be one kilometre long and will connect the Metro Airport Station to terminal 1 at the Salgado Filho Airport. The line is under the charge of Porto Alegre’s Urban Train Company (TRENSURB), which reports to the Ministry of Cities. TRENSURB procured Aeromovel’s technology package in August 2010.
“By buying a TRENSURB ticket, the user will be in the system already. At the Airport Station, the user will be able to change onto the Aeromovel to reach the airport without any additional cost. And the same goes for the opposite direction”, explains Humberto Kasper, TRENSURB’s president, reinforcing that the technology is 100% Brazilian.
The speed of Aeromovel's vehicles will be at the most 65 km/h. It will take 90 seconds to travel the one kilometre long route, with reduced energy consumption and environmental impact.
“It is a system that uses green technology. Gaseous pollutants are not emitted and noise is very much reduced. The vehicle weighs three to five times less than those used in a conventional system, but with the same passenger capacity”, explains Diego Abs.
The cost predicted for the operator is of around one third of an equivalent traditional system, as Aeromovel vehicles are simple and do not have many moving parts. All parts may be found in Brazil.
Another advantage mentioned by the engineering director is the system’s versatility. “Instead of having to relocate building sites around it, the Aeromovel system may be put in the urban mix, minimising relocation and dispossession. This is because it is able to go around very sharp bends and travel uphill", says Diego Abs.
If for some reason a vehicle gets too close to another, an air spring system is activated between the propulsion plates, thus, avoiding collision. Furthermore, the propulsion plates make sure the vehicle is firmly fixed on the track, so it does not derail.
According to TRENSURB, the idea is to supply for a demand of approximately 10 thousand people per day. The system is aimed at passengers who today walk the one kilometre between the metro station and terminal 1 at the airport.
The implementation of the Aeromovel is not in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Responsibility Matrix, but the project is considered essential for the tournament. The fact that Porto Alegre is a host city worked as a driver for the project.
“This project got the green light from the federal government because of the World Cup. The idea is to make the most of this important moment to enhance accessibility to the airport, which will serve as a permanent legacy for the country. It is a new technology, which solves mobility related problems and improves Brazil’s self-esteem and image, showing that the country is able to produce an innovative and competitive solution”, says Humberto Kasper.
Kasper believes that the Aeromovel may be replicated in the country. “It has the capacity of transporting more passengers with several possibilities of use, such as the connection between big industrial and residential centres. It is an alternative technology, with little urban and environmental impact", adds TRENSURB's president.
Diego Abs’ expectation is no different. For him, as the line implemented in Porto Alegre will be the first to operate commercially in the country, it will serve as an example to other parts of Brazil, so that they may use the same transport solution.
“When this project is operating successfully, from a commercial point of view, it may serve as an example of reliability, safety, competiveness, financial savings and efficiency of the technology, which will be the guarantee decision makers in the country need to put their cards on the technology”, he says.
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