The world’s largest urban gondola network leaps forward this week with the addition of the Línea Azul (Blue Line) in the Bolivian twin cities of La Paz and El Alto. Since debuting with just one line in May 2014, the state-owned Mi Teleférico (My Cable Car) system has now transported more than 75 million passengers on its Green, Yellow, and Red gondolas. In 2015, My Cable Car committed $450 million to build six additional lines through 2020, and it ordered two more last year. Mi Teleférico has quickly become one of Doppelmayr’s largest customers, exclusively utilizing the Austrian company’s ten-passenger monocable detachable gondola technology.
Construction commenced on Línea Azul in late May 2015 with cable pulling (by drone!) wrapping in September 2016. The first cabin launched later that month with Bolivian President Evo Morales taking the inaugural ride in November. After three more months of terminal buildout and system testing, the Blue line’s five stations are ready for show time. Línea Azul is La Paz’s longest to date, with 208 CWA Omega IV-10-LWI cabins that will cover an impressive 32,700 feet per revolution beginning March 3rd, just 645 days after groundbreaking.
Like the Red, Yellow and Green lines, the Blue line is actually two lifts with two separate haul ropes and two drive systems with cabins transferring between them. Nearly all of the Mi Teleférico network will be built this way, with multiple haul rope loops forming single “lines” with two to five stations each (most have either three or four.) Multi-stage gondolas operating with this principle in North America include Whistler Village and Excalibur at Whistler Blackcomb, Panorama at Mammoth and Revelation at Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
The Bolivian government has committed some $795 million to build 21 gondolas (11 lines, 38 stations, 36 miles of wire rope, 1,612 cabins) at build out. To put that in perspective, it took CWA 50 years to supply 4,000 cabins in the United States and the company fabricated approximately 2,000 cabins for the entire world last year. Another reference point: Doppelmayr’s global sales totaled $880 million in 2015/16. La Paz is the sole reason South America now accounts for almost double US and Canada sales combined.
Mi Teleférico will ultimately be capable of transporting 70,000 passengers hourly throughout La Paz and El Alto. Existing gondolas operate 17 hours per day, 50 weeks per year and apparently even generate an operating profit. Under the leadership of César Dockweiler, Mi Teleferico has become so good at what it does that it recently reached an agreement to manage construction and operations of a $66 million, five-station line in the city of Sucre – 430 miles away. Interestingly, that contract went to Poma.
Back in La Paz, construction is also nearly complete on the first sections of the White and Orange lines scheduled to open in the fourth quarter of this year. Purple and Sky Blue lines are also on deck; the former will be the first Mi Teleférico gondola capable of 6 m/s speed and 4,000 pphpd capacity. La Paz and El Alto will debut a new gondola at least every six months for years to come and you can follow Mi Telefério’s progress on their awesome Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts along with hundreds of thousands of followers.