Urban Transport

Sideways elevators could ease London commutes

Sideways elevators could ease ...
MULTI elevators would deliver commuters directly from their offices to their platforms
MULTI elevators would deliver commuters directly from their offices to their platforms
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Thyssenkrupp envisions a system of elevators to service London's Underground
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Thyssenkrupp envisions a system of elevators to service London's Underground
The elevators would be installed on Underground platforms
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The elevators would be installed on Underground platforms
MULTI would allow for new lines to be added without elaborate station modifications
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MULTI would allow for new lines to be added without elaborate station modifications
MULTI elevators would deliver commuters directly from their offices to their platforms
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MULTI elevators would deliver commuters directly from their offices to their platforms
MULTI uses special junctions to allow cars to move horizontially
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MULTI uses special junctions to allow cars to move horizontially

Sometimes solving a problem takes a bit of lateral thinking – and maybe a bit of lateral movement. A recent debate panel in London made up of government and industry representatives discussed the problems that the city's Underground system faced from growing passenger demand and how "Willy Wonka" elevators that move sideways as well as up and down could take some of the pressure off.

The London Underground is the world's oldest subterranean urban passenger train system and a major artery in the city's daily life as it carries 1.34 billion passengers a year with Waterloo Station alone handling 95 million people.

Every morning, a huge army of office workers emerge from the subway tunnels that serve the trains and clog the roads like a human flood as they seek out their buildings, where they cram into elevator cars to take them to their respective floors. And every evening the process is reversed as those same workers ride back down to the street from their offices, then through the streets, into the subways, and into their trains as the city center drains for the night.

This daily ritual isn't exactly relaxing and for those who aren't used to it, this underground migration can be bewildering and even frightening. Worse, with London's population predicted to rise and passenger ridership growing by 33 percent a decade, the system must expand and adapt if it's to keep up.

The elevators would be installed on Underground platforms
The elevators would be installed on Underground platforms

In recent decades, Transport for London (TfL) has made efforts to modernize the system and make it more pleasant to use with stations that have more amenities, but the Underground suffers from a fundamental problem. As new lines have been added over the years, the stations that act as the interface between them have become a rabbit's warren of pedestrian tunnels, escalators, and platforms. This is often so confusing that it isn't unusual for even experienced travellers to get lost while chasing lines and end up going in the wrong direction.

One solution to this that the panel, made up of TfL, London First, Arup, WSP, Thyssenkrupp, and Weston Williamson, considered was Thyssenkrupp's MULTI elevator system, which replaces cables with a magnetic-based drive that runs along shafts equipped with rotating junctions that allow the cars to move sideways as well as up and down. According to Thyssenkrupp, this allows the cars to carry 50 percent more passengers and, since the cars can go in a circle, it's possible to have one available at any floor within 15 to 30 seconds.

Originally, MULTI was seen as a way of speeding up travel inside skyscrapers, but the panel and Thyssenkrupp have expanded on the concept until its become its own short range urban transportation system. In the present concept, instead of getting in a lift, going down to street level, walking to the nearest station, then negotiating walkways and escalators to a platform that might be hundreds of feet down, a commuter can just get into the car, select the platform, and the car will then go down, sideways, and down again right to the train without any walking required.

MULTI would allow for new lines to be added without elaborate station modifications
MULTI would allow for new lines to be added without elaborate station modifications

According to Chris Williamson, co-founder and partner at architecture firm Weston Williamson & Partners, this arrangement would not only be easier on commuters, it would also simplify station design and allow for new lines to be built under the already crowded subterranean landscape of the capital without having to radically modify existing stations.

"MULTI was initially developed for tall buildings, to double elevator shaft capacity, reduce elevator footprint, and offer vertical and horizontal movement to enable architects to construct taller, more creative and more user friendly structures, but its concept makes it a prime solution to the challenges of metro stations as well," says Thyssenkrupp Elevator CEO Andreas Schierenbeck. "If applied it would undoubtedly change the face of London's transport network, and reinforce the UK's position at the head of global innovations. Yet it also offers a practical solution that could ease congestion in dozens of underground networks across the world too; a thought that makes you realize its potential to be one of the most revolutionary new developments of our time."

MULTI is currently being installed at the company's bespoke Test Tower and is expected to be ready for initial testing in 2017.

The video below outlines the MULTI for Metros concept.

Source: Thyssenkrupp Elevator

thyssenkrupp MULTI rope-less elevator for metros

7 comments
Roger Garrett
So, I'm in my office building and want to get home. I get in the elevator and indicate my destination. Does that single elevator cabin take JUST me all the way to my destination? Does it make stops along the way to pick up other people going to other destinations? I'd sure love to see some computer simulations of the whole process, including random people going to random destinations, to see how effective it actually might be.
GinaSwifte
What would help would be more moving walkways so that the less able of us would be able to get from one platform to another more easily, or even from our train to the underground more easily. I defy anyone to get from Platforms 1-4 at St. Pancras onto a tube in under 10 minutes.
ArneNormand
How about building monorails high above ground Level. These could be built in different hights in different directions. And this would most likely ease the car traffic a lot, make the city air cleaner, and release the pressure on the Subways. Walkways and moving pavements could also be built between different buildings as a shorter system to spare time and energy for a lot of People.
TimBambrough
I truly think that is a horrible idea. If people go from office to train when will they ever get some exercise. London will end looking more like we do in America,where we have a large population of overweight people. People need exercise and fresh air.
Firehawk70
The throughput of escalators has to easily be 100 times that of an elevator. This makes very little sense to me. I'd love to see the math on this to show that it's more efficient than what we have now - not just more neato.
Tom Lee Mullins
The elevator that not only goes up and down but also sideways is like the turbo lift in Star Trek.
DomainRider
It might work for building immediately above or adjacent to stations, but that's a tiny proportion. There are practical issues too - can you replace existing systems or must you wait to rebuild from scratch? How do new buildings integrate with existing station MULTI systems? Who is responsible for the elevators and the cost of maintenance? Can one elevator serve multiple platforms? are the routes fixed or flexible?