The Anonymous Widower

A Visit To Heathrow Terminal 5

The Heathrow Pod I talked about in An Innovative Scheme For A Rail Link To Glasgow Airport, just had to be seen, so when I found myself at West Drayton station and a 350 bus arrived with Heathrow Terminal 5 on the front, I just had to take it.

I got on the top deck and took these pictures, followed by others when I arrived at the Terminal.

Many of these pictures of the system were taken from the Cafe Nero on the Departures Level of Terminal 5. This cafe is a good place to meet someone, as the views are good if you have to wait.

I got a good view of the Heathrow Pod, but because of all the steel-work in the way, getting a good photo was not easy.

A few points about the Heathrow Pod.

  • It appears that both carriageways of the system are bi-directional.
  • The developer’s web site is here.
  • The official web site is here.
  • The most interesting comment was from a member of British Airways ground staff, who said that her kids always want to use it.
  • BAA has a stake in the company that makes them.
  • What I saw is probably a restricted system designed to be as reliable as possible.

Here’s a video

Watching the video and reading about the pods, I suspect they are best described as self-driving cars, that run on a restricted network of roads, which are described as guideways.

But the most interesting snippet is this from the developer’s web site, about a proposal for a new PRT system at Heathrow.

In May 2013 Heathrow Airport Limited announced as part of its draft five year (2014-2019) master plan that it intended to use the PRT system to connect terminal 2 and terminal 3 to their respective business car parks. The proposal was not included in the final plan due to spending priority given to other capital projects and has been deferred.

There have been suggestions that they will extend the service throughout the airport and to nearby hotels using 400 pods.

I’ve read somewhere, that connecting to Kingston-on-Thames is in their sights.

This is perhaps not so fanciful as you think. Look at this Google Map of the Western end of Runway 09L at Heathrow Airport.

The Western End Of Runway 09L At Heathrow

The Western End Of Runway 09L At Heathrow

If you can’t quite distinguish the Heathrow Pod, which is the narrow line snaking its way across in front of the runway, here’s an enlarged view of the Heathrow Pod on the Northern side of the runway.

The Car Park End Of The Heathrow Pod

The Car Park End Of The Heathrow Pod

And here’s another on the Southern side.

The Terminal 5 End Of The Heathrow Pod

The Terminal 5 End Of The Heathrow Pod

The Expansion Of Heathrow Airport

Looking at these Google Maps and applying my devious mind to the Heathrow Pod, I am coming to some conclusions about the expansion of Heathrow Airport.

  • Pollution caused by traffic is a big problem around Heathrow. By developing existing and future train services and an extensive Heathrow Pod system serving hotels and car parks, all cars, taxis and buses could be removed to a sensible distance from the Airport.
  • In the Heathrow Hub proposal for expansion of the Airport, there is a 650 metre gap between the two portions of the Northern runway. This gap would allow the ILS for the Eastern runway to remain in place and so the approach to this runway would probably be identical to what it is now.
  • I suspect the runway gap would also allow the Heathrow Pod to remain in its current place. But that would not be as tricky to move as the ILS. Or as safety-critical!
  • The Heathrow Pod system has charisma in digger-buckets.

I feel that an expanded Heathrow Pod could just swing the government to back Heathrow Hub, rather than totally new runways at Heathrow or Gatwick.

The Ultimate Heathrow Pod System

After a drink, I’ve let my mind race ahead.

  • Heathrow Pod stations could be placed in all hotels, car parks and train/bus stations ringing Heathrow, up to perhaps five or even ten miles away.
  • Passengers who are flying out, could scan their boarding pass and passport in the pod.
  • The pod would take you to the appropriate holding area for your flight.
  • Or if you failed the checks to an appropriate area for further checking.
  • Passengers who are flying in, would use the touch-screen terminal to tell their pod where to go.
  • A quick scan of your parking ticket could take you to the station nearest to your car.

I’ve always been sceptical about driver-less cars, but these versions which are all identical running on a fixed and limited network of guide-ways could be another matter.

A Sad Footnote

The driving force behind the system would appear to be Martin Lowson.

Sadly he died in 2013.



October 21, 2016 - Posted by | Transport | , , ,


  1. […] But the most interesting development is the ULTra PRT system, I talked about in A Visit To Heathrow Terminal 5. […]

    Pingback by Will The Third Runway At Heathrow Be Actually Built In The Near Future? « The Anonymous Widower | October 27, 2016 | Reply

  2. […] I wrote about the PRT System in A Visit To Heathrow Terminal 5, I’ve met someone, who’s had a ride. Their view was totally positive on this new […]

    Pingback by Crossrail’s Park-And-Ride Facilities « The Anonymous Widower | November 3, 2016 | Reply

  3. […] I also think we’ll see some innovative solutions, like the PRT system, I wrote about in A Visit To Heathrow Terminal 5. […]

    Pingback by How Can We Deal With Air Pollution In The UK? « The Anonymous Widower | November 4, 2016 | Reply

  4. […] But Heathrow may have the solution in their hands and that would be to use an enlarged version of the Heathrow Pod system, that I wrote about in A Visit To Heathrow Terminal 5. […]

    Pingback by Feltham Station « The Anonymous Widower | November 22, 2016 | Reply

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