ULTra 1 km Cardiff, Wales Test Track, January 2002

On January 17, 2002, the City of Cardiff, Wales hosted a media launch event for the 1 km ULTra personal rapid transit (PRT) test track. Cities21's Steve Raney was honored to be the only U.S. citizen invited to the event! The $4M funding for the test track came from various United Kingdom governmental sources. Deputy Mayor Christine Priday led off with an impressive speech showing her commitment to this transit technology and demonstrating an understanding of ULTra's potential contribution to economic development. In sharp contrast with the U.S. politicians in 2002, an elected UK official took a highly visible leadership role in promoting a PRT implementation.

This launch event demonstrated very impressive accomplishments, with a long list of items still to be completed to bring about a commercial implementation. One electric vehicle was demonstrated running at speeds of less than 25 MPH. Accurate stopping was demonstrated. The vehicle ascended and descended a steep grade. A single, basic ground-level station was shown.

The Cardiff ULTra story saturated British media (see below). The national BBC AM and PM news shows (equivalent to Dan Rather) had lengthy segments with footage shot that day. BBC radio coverage was extensive as well. The press reports spoke of a full Cardiff implementation starting in 2004.

Download 3.6MB MPEG4 AVI clip of vehicle on the test track.

Test Track Details, with images

Most of the test track guideway is at ground level.


Elevated guideway is about 6 feet wide wide and lets significant light pass through. In the middle of the guideway, there is a see-through grid. Images: 482KB top view (sorry about the finger), 270KB second top view, 225KB bottom view, 336 KB pier, 286KB second bottom view.

In the continuum of PRT designs, think of ULTra as an electric vehicle system employing automatic guidance, rather than as a system where the vehicle actually touches some form of rail for lateral guidance.

More images: 140KB Stationary vehicle at grade, 454KB vehicle painted with Cardiff dragon.

The two test track loops are banked at somewhere around 10%.

Public Sector Funding, Speeches, Cardiff Maps

By March 12, 2002, $68M in ULTra public sector funding had been promised. Amazingly positive speeches were delivered by the Deputy Mayor and the European Union. "Stage 0" and "Stage 1" Cardiff PRT routes had been discussed. Alas, funding was later postponed. Click here for details on funding, speeches, and Cardiff maps.

Information on the City of Cardiff:

Cardiff, the capital of Wales, is a thriving city which boasts Britain's largest sports stadium. Up to a few decades ago, Cardiff had been a major center for coal transport. With the decline in coal production, Cardiff had to transform its economy and subsequently engineered an impressive turnaround with substantial brownfield redevelopment. There are many new large buildings with still more under construction. Care has been taken architecturally to produce appealing buildings and public spaces. A growing city is a terrific match for PRT since PRT makes real estate more productive.

Jan 2002 Media Coverage: