LondonUnlocked has previously examined MonoMetro's proposals for a new regional metro. Since publishing that article, we have been in dialogue with Gareth Pearce, Chair of MonoMetro, who wanted to set the record straight with regards to MonoMetro's history and future plans.
In 2000, with both the Underground and National Rail networks suffering under record levels of congestion and a resulting decline in service reliability, the Government asked the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) to study the requirements for extra passenger capacity to and through London.
The London East-West Study was the document which resulted from that study. It recommended the following measures:
At no point in this version of the study does it seriously consider any alternative schemes for transport in London, other than based around the CrossRail plans which has been laid out in the past. One has to wonder how thorough this study was, given its apparently restrictive remit.
However, an assessment of MonoMetro has taken place. Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, has been questioned repeatedly by Jenny Jones, John Briggs and Angie Bray of the London Assembly regarding this assessment on the MonoMetro scheme, but have yet to see a copy of the report.
To date, the MonoMetro assessment given by TfL and the Mayor's office has not been released to the public.
LondonUnlocked has contacted a number of AMs, and has been assured that this topic will be raised again when the Assembly returns to session.
The proposed MonoMetro cars are to be built in the USA using the same method of manufacturing employed by Boeing for their lightweight Dreamliner aircraft. Because of the lightweight material used the trains will be able to operate a high frequency service, stopping and starting far more frequently without the time delay that would be caused on a traditional rail network.
The MonoMetro scheme and design has taken ten years to complete, with the engineering being based on that of the established Wuppertal Schwebebahn in Germany.
Due to the unique custom build of the MonoMetro carriages, steps are being taken to outfit the proposed service to 21st century needs. Reinforced fabrics such as Kevlar are being woven into the design, making the train resistant to explosions and other blunt traumas. In addition, filters on the air conditioning system can be fitted to detect bio-hazards and filtered air pumped into the sealed cabins in order to prevent casualties in the event of a biological/chemical incident in central London.
Such modern precautive systems would also mean that the proposed network could be run by the emergency services as a safe transport system in the event of a terrorist attack, bypassing these zones and enabling more rapid recovery.
Around the world
Whilst TfL and the Mayor's interest in MonoMetro appears to have waned, other cities and countries are taking the initiative in utilizing this unique and exciting scheme.
An order has been placed by the Saudi government to fund the development costs and implement a working MonoMetro network in Mecca by 2012. This development will be delivered by an almost entirely British team, apart from the involvement of one American firm.
With the manufacturing of the bogies (the chassis of the carriages) being manufactured in Cardiff, the city council there has requested that MonoMetro submit a proposal for a link between the City Centre and the new Welsh Assembly building in Cardiff Bay, with the possibility of expansion of the system to form a city-wide network.
In addition to the Mecca project and the Cardiff bid, MonoMetro is also looking at introducing the system to Medina and Cairo, actively being invited to discuss the projects with officials there.
With MonoMetro being charged with delivering the prototype development to Mecca by 2009 (for full roll-out by 2012), there is really only a window of three years that a project could possibly be delivered in. Whilst in developmental terms this is a short period of time, an examination of the MonoMetro website (www.monometro.com) shows that plans are far advanced, and much design work done.
LondonUnlocked is proudly independent and not funded or supported by MonoMetro, or its affiliates, in any way. However, we believe that it is imperative that innovative, well thought-out schemes like this should have a full and open assessment. MonoMetro could be implemented in London by 2012 and offers a genuine alternative (or compliment) to Crossrail.
The Mayor, and the opposition candidates for his job, need to put these far-reaching projects at the top of their agendas. London's transport system is at capacity, and the band-aid of adding an additional carriage to a packed tube, or more buses on our congested streets are simply not long-term solutions. MonoMetro is an answer to this. There are others, and we will continue to highlight them, but it is simply neglect that schemes such as this are not properly considered.
London deserves better, and Londoners deserve more choice.