A number of the main tourist attractions around the major destination of Las Vegas, Nevada, are now linked by a unique form of a rapid transit system, which its developers hope will become an attraction in itself. It opened in April 1999 after a construction period of only eight months.

Drawing on the latest cable-drawn transport technology, the system is, in effect, a rail-borne ski-lift, which is fully automated, thereby meaning greatly reduced staff and operating costs compared with a conventional light rail or tram system.

Private operator Circus Circus Enterprises claims the Cable Liner offers a suitably unique mode of transport along what is ‘the most famous casino mile in the world’. It is a novel development in an area which boasts 12,000 hotel rooms and suites, and therefore attracts a large amount of inward-bound traffic, adding to the strains on the area’s infrastructure.

The project

The system has been developed under a joint venture between Dopplemayr Cable Car of Wolfurt, Austria, the country’s division of Siemens Transportation, and CCEI. Siemens is known worldwide as a leading developer and manufacturer of rail systems and technology, while Dopplemayr Cable Car is a subsidiary of the world’s largest manufacturer of ropeway transportation systems.

The concept of continuously moving passenger-carrying vehicles has been developed by Siemens and Dopplemayr as a way of relieving the growing pressure on other fixed infrastructure, roads and railways while taking up much less space than those modes.

The twin-track tram system is fully automated, and operates via a cable, linking the principal Las Vegas’ Boulevard and Tropicana intersection with the prestigious hotel complex at Mandalay Bay, with intermediate stops at the Excalibur and Luxor luxury hotels.

In an area where its wealth is reflected in the high percentage of vehicle ownership, the cable liner is claimed to offer a radical alternative to the problems of road congestion, at the same time as providing a solution in keeping with the unique character of the area it serves.

Infrastructure

This distinctive system consists of an elevated 0.84km (915ft) long guideway, with two completely independent shuttle systems running side by side. The guideway alignment runs between 16ft and 26ft (5m to 8m) above street level. One system serves all four stations on the route, while the other provides an express service between the two extremities.

Stations are easily accessed via escalators, elevators and stairways, designed to run in harmony with each other, to ensure optimal flows of passengers into and out of the system.

The Cable Liner shuttle has been carefully integrated into the surrounding, extremely distinctive, skyline, while the system was designed to the vision of private operator, Circus Circus Enterprises. While the Mandalay Bay system is elevated, the Cable Liner is capable of being adapted for use in a tunnel. At present, technology constraints mean the maximum length of line possible is 4km.

A test centre has been developed jointly by Doppelmayr and Siemens at its plant in Innsbruck, Austria, which demonstrates the application of the cable liner to potential customers. The concept is being extensively promoted as an emission-free system whose modular design means it can be integrated as far as possible into the environment and is seen as an ideal way of linking outlying suburbs with existing public transport networks.

The Mandalay Bay system has a novel method for turning its trains, which is, in effect, a mini turntable, similar to the type which was once used to turn steam locomotives. Operated automatically, this ensures that the trains can run the intensive service demanded by the operators.

Rolling stock

Trains running on the system represent the latest technology from a company which began in 1892 and has been involved in the development and installation of ski and chairlifts, and freight and passenger elevators.

Each formation comprises five vehicles, each accommodating 32 passengers. This gives an hourly capacity of 1,900 passengers in each direction for the express services, and 1,300 each way for the stopping trains.

The vehicles are attached to a hauling rope and run on pneumatic tires, which the operators say gives an extremely quiet ride. Each car has wide sliding doors for easy access and exit, with the target that a train should not be stopped at any station for longer than 50 seconds.

The Cable Liner runs at a constant speed of 8m/s in regular operation, equivalent to 36km/h (22.4mph). When it stops in a station, the wide double doors automatically open and offer level access from the platform to the vehicle, allowing easy access for wheelchairs and prams.

Signalling and communications

The Cable Liner’s drive and control technology has been developed by Siemens, using its worldwide experience of and expertise in all aspects of electrical engineering. Operations are fully automated, so the system has no wayside signalling, and the trains’ speed and progress are controlled automatically. Speeds are varied automatically to ensure that the 30-second interval service from each station is maintained.

As with any fully automated system, passenger safety is always a prime concern. The network is designed so that two vehicles are always visible from any station platform, one moving in each direction.

The future

As a self-contained system, there are no plans to extend the Mandalay Bay Cable Liner, as it was specifically designed as a one-off solution to a particular area’s immediate transport needs.

However, the operator was hoping that, given its high profile in the area, and the uniqueness of the scheme, it would soon achieve its principal ridership targets of 1,300 passengers per hour in each direction on the ‘Line A’ stopping service, and 1,900 per hour for the ‘Line B’ non-stop trains. Given this capacity, it is hoped the shuttle will carry around 26 million passengers a year once its benefits have been fully realised.