The 3S Gondola is today’s finest lift technology with large, comfortable cabins quickly moving thousands of people per hour over virtually any terrain. Doppelmayr and VonRoll pioneered the technology with Poma and Leitner developing their own versions in recent years. Thirteen of these systems operate worldwide with at least three more in development in settings as diverse as the Swiss Alps and islands of Vietnam. Here is a summary:
3S Bahn – Zermatt Bergbahnen AG
The world’s highest elevation 3S will open on the Matterhorn in Zermatt for 2018. It will feature Leitner’s DirectDrive technology and new Sigma Symphony cabins designed by the famous Italian firm Pininfarina. Its 25 28-passenger cabins will move 2,000 skiers per hour at 7.5 meters per second. The lift will cover almost 13,000 feet laterally and 3,000 feet vertically in nine minutes. Zermatt will be the first non-urban 3S gondola for Leitner or Poma. Construction begins next summer.
Penkenbahn – Mayrhofner Bergbahnen
The new Penkenbahn at Austria’s Mayrhofner Bergbahnen will open this winter after 18 months of construction. Built by Doppelmayr, it will have 33 CWA Taris cabins with Wi-Fi access capable of carrying 32 passengers each. The Penkenbahn perfectly demonstrates the capabilities of a 3S, able to move 3,840 passengers per hour up 3,723 vertical feet in 8.2 minutes. It will have only three towers, the tallest more than 150 feet. Mayrhofner Bergbahnen has tons of photo updates on its website which also has live webcams. Look for the Penkenbahn to open by Christmas.
Hon Thom Island 3S, Vietnam
Construction on Doppelmayr’s 13th and perhaps most spectacular 3S gondola began this week in Vietnam. The project will be the first of probably many 3S gondolas in Asia. At 26,000 feet, this one will be the second longest ropeway in the world. It links the town of An Thoi with Hon Thom Island over water and is being built by a private developer called Sun Group. The same company operates the 19,000′ Ba Na gondola and is trying to build a 3S to the highest point in Southeast Asia.
The latest 3S will be tied for the fastest ever, moving 8.5 m/s with a capacity of 3,500 passengers per hour per direction. The system will have 70 30-passenger CWA cabins and six towers, the tallest one clocking in at 525 feet. Construction started on September 4th and is scheduled to be completed by April 30, 2017.
These are the only 3S gondolas in the pipeline that I know of. No question there will be many more built, particularly in cities where the technology is cheap compared to subway lines and even bus rapid transit. I see the 3S as a solution for making connections in places like Washington, DC (Georgetown neighborhood to the Metro) or Boston (finally linking North Station and South Station.) Hopefully we will see more tri-cable gondolas in this part of the world although the one in Vietnam will be darn cool.