The H-Bahn ("Hängebahn", or "hanging railway") in Dortmund and Düsseldorf is a suspended, driverless passenger suspension railway system. The system was developed by Siemens, who call the project SIPEM (SIemens PEople Mover).
Two installations exist, one at the Dortmund university campus, the other at the Düsseldorf Airport. While Siemens is no longer actively marketing the system, and will no longer carry out turnkey projects, new installations are still possible in collaboration with the Dortmund operating company.
Since 2011 Air Train International has been marketing the system in China and as of May 2013 there are proposals to build lines in Shanghai and Wenzhou. A number of other Chinese cities are also studying the system.
The cabins are centrally controlled and don't need a driver. The system can operate on a schedule or on-demand, whereby a passenger requests a carriage by pushing a button, similar to summoning an elevator. The maximum speed is 50 km/h. The system allows forking by a system of switches in the carrier.
The carrier is a hollow rectangular box girder with a slit in the bottom through which the cabin is suspended at the running gear, whose two axles carry the load with a rubber wheel on both sides providing both suspension and propulsion. Two wheels run horizontally along the top and bottom of the interior side walls of the carrier box, providing horizontal guidance. Thus, the designation as a monorail system is to be taken with a grain of salt, meaning just that there is a single axis of suspension.
400-volt three-phase current is taken from four conductors at the side wall. Above those, a cable provides continuous wireless data connection between the train and the control center.
All contact between the suspended cabin and the fixed system is enclosed in the interior of the carrier box, protected from the elements. In this sense, the SIPEM suspension system is similar to the one used by the earlier SAFEGE system (which was developed in France and which is used on two networks in Japan), but is much narrower, both the carrier box as well as the open slit for the suspension.
The cabin is suspended below two motorized bogies, which are enclosed in the carrier girder. Each bogie is equipped with two 31 kW electric motors, providing a peak motive power of 124 kW.
Each running gear is equipped with two motors, which are connected in parallel via their armature circuits. (4-pole separately-excited DC machine with contraflexure poles)
Operating voltage 3 x 400 V, 50 Hz Nominal power of motors 4 x 31,5 kW Range of revolutions per minute 0..3290 rpm Nominal torque 90 Nm Nominal propulsive force 8,4 kN Maximum propulsive force 16,8 kN Regular acceleration 1 m/s² Regular deceleration 1 m/s² Emergency deceleration > 1,5 m/s² Nominal speed 13,9 m/s (50 km/h) Positioning accuracy ± 3 cm Noise level (measured at 50 km/h in 25 meter distance) < 65 dB/A
Each cabin is 8.232 metres long (9.20 m, including couplers), 2.244 metres wide and 2.623 metres high. The interior height for standing passengers is 2.003 m. It has two 1.350 m wide automatic sliding doors at each side. The Dortmund cabin provides seating for 16 and standing room for 29 passengers, while the Düsseldorf airport version provides space for 15 and 32, respectively.
The cabin shell weighs 4955 kg. The complete car weighs 8455 kg, with bogies weighing 1750 kg each. It can carry a useful load of up to 4923 kg and has a maximum gross weight of 13378 kg.
Switching is done with the help of the horizontal guiding wheels, where short blades on both sides of the common section of the carrier move as a canal of the same width as the carrying box to the left or right, while a long blade between the two forking guideways moves right or left to provide the horizontal guidance into the intended direction.
In 1973, the Federal Ministry made DM 22 million (€11,250,000) available for the research and promotion of this system. A test line was opened on 21 July 1975 in Düsseldorf by the former transport minister Hans Matthoefer with a length of 180 metres (approx. 200 yards). In 1976, the system was extended by 1.5 km (a little less than a mile).
The first publicly funded overhead railway has run since 1984 at the University of Dortmund, where it initially just connected the north and south campuses with a single line. However, many stations have 2 platforms with a track either side permitting carriages to pass each other in opposite directions. This stretch was opened on 2 May 1984 by Dr. Heinz Riesenhuber, and comprised 1.05 kilometres (0.65 mi) of track and two trains. The cost was approximately DM 24,000,000 (€12,270,000), of which 75% was funded by the German Federal Government, 20% by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and 5% by the city of Dortmund.
The longest span between support pillars is 38.5 metres (126.3 ft), where it crosses the university road, which bisects the two campuses. Just beyond the road the H-Bahn crosses through a nature reserve at its maximum elevation of about 16 metres (approx. 50 feet) above ground. In order to prevent passengers getting close to the track at stations, there are platform edge doors between the platform and the track. As soon as the vehicles arrive in the station, doors in the partition open automatically, along with the train car doors.
In 1993, following a three-year construction period, a new 900 m (0.56 mile) long branch was opened, along with two new stations, one in Eichlinghofen and another at the S-Bahn station at Dortmund university. This construction included technology considered to be the first of its kind in Germany. The existing system was renovated, and equipped with technology which allowed determining the train's location with a much higher precision — within 3 cm (1.2 in). These changes allowed for a higher speed, and trains can now also follow each other more closely. Three new carriages were supplied by Siemens. An extension into the nearby technology park was opened on 19 December 2003, which means the current network, including this final 1.2 km (0.75 mi) extension, has a length of 3.162 km (approx. 2 miles). The building of this section cost around €15,500,000.
Line 1 operates between the Technology Park and Eichlinghofen, and during the day carriages arrive every ten minutes, stopping at the university and the S-Bahn stop, where there is a connection every twenty minutes to Dortmund city centre, and Bochum. Two trains serve line 1.
Line 2 is the original line between the North and South campuses of the university, and is served by a third train. A reserve fourth vehicle is available, and there is also a maintenance vehicle.
Further extensions to the H-Bahn network were being considered, but were not cost-effective enough:
Düsseldorf Airport rail services
A nearly identical monorail system called SkyTrain transfers passengers at Düsseldorf Airport. The system links a station at each Terminal C and Terminal A+B with the long-term parking facility and the long distance train station along a twin line.
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