Below, you will find the from the reports from the Fornebu/Oslo Personal Rapid Transit – PRT – Project 2000 – 2003 These project reports have been guarded as business secrets until they are now disclosed here. After more than a decade, they have no more commercial interest, the secrecy is unnecessary, and the reports might still be of considerable interest to PRT-enthusiasts world wide in their attempts to make the visions of PRT come true, and hopefully, to build the common set of principles and basic solutions that is needed to make PRT grow as a realistic transport modality for public service.
The Oslo/Fornebu PRT project started as a students’ project for a masters’ degree in telecom strategy (MTS) in 2001-2002. (The masters’ degree course was developed by Jan Audestad, researcher at Telenor and professor at NTNU, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, for the Telenor Corporate University, and was highly innovative in its content. It lasted but a few years, until Telenor Corporate University was closed.) As part of the MTS course, the students should set up an innovative, out of core, development project within ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems), complete with a development and business plan. Eight of that year’s students joined this project. Our ideas were trigged by Arno Mong Daastøl’s earlier initiative for a PRT system in the area, as well as our examinations of concept studies studies like ULTra, Taxi2000, and several others more or less realistic attempts that we studied in great detail. We came to the conclusion that no of these systems would be feasible or suit our Nordic conditions. Hence, a design was needed that would manage ice and snow, have a small ecological footprint, be cheap enough to operate without public subsidies, and be so simple in its construction that it would be reliable and fast enough to be a public transport system for an area with heavy rush hour traffic. In addition, the proof of concept an a consortium should be ready fast enough for us to qualify as a bidder for the Public Private Partnership contract decided by the local authorities to be up for bid in pretty close future.
Early 2002, the Telenor top management gaves us permission to try to create a consortium that could take the idea further, with the aim of
1) competing for the bid of a first installation at Fornebu – Lysaker, outside Oslo, where a new innovative public transport system for years was under planning, but subject to a political and bureaucratic «Gordian knot» that impeded all solutions. Perhaps a PRT system could be the sward that cut the knot in two? If so, it would be a win-win-situation: Telenor would save on subsidies for busses, the employees would get faster transport, the local government would get its public transport system at low costs, and the ecological footprint would be smaller than for all comparable transportation alternatives.
2) if successful, it would be the first real PRT system in operation worldwide, and hence a new industrial venture. This could be made possible through the unique combination of competence, capital, solid corporate partners and political will – which we hoped to get on board. If successful, we could build a new industry and make real the dreams of many transport innovators since the 1960-ies of a new, environmentally far more friendly and still efficient public transportation system, shaped very much along the same principles as the Internet – based on individual routing of packets in a mesh network, and with a core logistic system based on ICT.
We did not succeed as to the Fornebu – Lysaker transport solution. Still (as of 2015), no public transport system is built there, and will not be built for years to come. The reasons are political, financial, and due to traditionalist opposition against new transport modalities, even against not-so-new automatic people movers (APM), seen since many years at airports and as of then decided on by the County Council of Akershus, the regional authority, as the chosen transport modality for the area. According to plans, it should have been in operation by now.
During winter 2002-2003 the South Korean steel based corporation POSCO Ltd. joined the project, already with a strong interest in PRT from its own research projects. As the only major partner apart from Telenor, and as the only partner willing to carry on the project as Telenor gradually withdrew, POSCO took over the project (2004). The project then developed into the POSCO-owned VECTUS Ltd., with its test track in Uppsala, Sweden, and from 2014, its first working application in South Korea. During the Oslo project face, we were never able to find Norwegian, nor Scandinavian, partners that were willing to take a major role in a consortium.
The documents reflect the focus of the Oslo fase of the PRT-project – as to our visions and as to their maturity or lack thereof, cost estimations, software development for logistics, business strategy, the project’s manning, etc. Needless to say, the views expressed, were ours, the project members and authors, and were not necessarily shared by the companies we were working for. On the contrary, as all innovative projects, the views were ours, and were shaped not the least to «sell» our project to the manargement of the companies in which we were employed.
As the reports reflect, our intention was to take part in – and contribute to – a paradigm shift in transport, and at the same time both create new world wide business, lay a firm knowledge foundation, and build a test track – all in time for the first bid for the construction and operation of the Oslo – Lysaker transportation system, a system to be built and operated on a PPP-contract (Public Private Partnership). Which failed, more for political reasons than for anything connected with technology.
The roots of such projects are always deep: Each new initiative stands on the shoulders of previous initiators. This time, I was the initiator, by picking up ideas from other innovators and carrying them a bit further together with an enthusiastic team and with the help of financial backing from my employer at the time pulling out of all ITS engagements. So, the timing was bad, but he still knew that such projects normally fail. However, in the rare cases they succeed, their yeld might be high, for society as well as for business, and in this specific case also for the environment. My hope is that the reports will help and inspire other PRT projects so that they can build on our shoulders, as we did on our forrunners’.
So, here to enjoy – the project reports that are found here at the project report depository.
Einar Flydal, 26th of February 2015.
PS. 10. September 2016: Last time I visited Uppsala (summer 2015), the test track was closed down and removed. A small notice told that the Vectus activity in Europe had been closed down. By now, that is all I know about what is left of the project.