The Heathrow Pod is a futuristic mode of transport blending a people mover system with the personal space of a private car, forming a new term of PRT or personal rapid transit. The driverless pods currently operate as a free shuttle between Heathrow Terminal 5 and the Heathrow Pod Parking catered to business passengers, with the fare in a way integrated into the parking charges.
Each pod berths at a bay, standing by for passengers.
Order the pod through the touch screen menu beside the platform screen door.
I’m heading to Pod Parking Station A first.
Once I confirmed my pod order, the doors opened for me to board.
Once ready, press the “close doors” button.
Once the doors are closed, there is an option to start the pod, or to open the doors again just in case something is amiss.
There are announcements to guide you from the kiosk to inside the pod.
I pressed “start” to start the ride.
Reversing out of the berth and heading out of the station, just like a car.
Heading out of Terminal 5.
Passing by the apron, with the fence along the track marring the view.
There seems to be a TV installed on the top, but it was not in use.
As the Heathrow Pod track skirts around the airport perimeter off Runway 09L, you can see planes taking off and landing from the Heathrow Pod.
Unfortunately, the advertisements on the pod continue to mar the view.
Crossing over Western Perimeter Road and Wright Way.
Approaching the Pod Parking junction.
Turning left to Pod Parking Station A.
Approaching Pod Parking Station A.
Turning into an empty bay.
The journey from Terminal 5 to Pod Parking Station A took 5 minutes.
A mock-up of an ULTra PRT pod sits in the middle of the balloon loop for pods to loop around from the station.
The compact station means that you can go pretty close to the track, so be careful of moving pods.
Another pod departing from Pod Parking Station A.
Overall, it was an interesting ride on the Heathrow Pod, my first PRT ride. Despite having similarities with a train, the pods departed on demand which reduces waiting time. Furthermore, the high frequency and low capacity of each individual pod allows for everyone or every group to get their own private pod for their journey. This seems to be a perfect blend of the privacy and convenience of a private car along with a shared capacity of a dedicated track, achieving benefits of both private and public transport.
I’m not sure of the costs involved to have such a system or the amount that Heathrow takes from the car park charges to maintain the pods, but if the fare is right, I think this might be a great potential for last-mile connectivity. I would think that a bunch of HDB estates could benefit from a PRT system.