LAAX Switzerland Launches World-First On-Demand Gondola, the FlemXpress
The new service, inspired by Uber’s on-demand model, will cut emissions by 50%.
Following 15 years of development, LAAX, Switzerland is set to launch stage one of its first-of-a-kind uber style gondola, the FlemXpress in December 2023. LAAX, the leading resort for sustainability in the Swiss Alps, has pioneered the introduction of new technology to replace its chairlifts and reduce energy consumption by up to 50% with the new system.
Spearheaded by the Weisse Arena Group and the community of Flims, through an investment of CHF 80 million, stage one of the FlemXpress , encompasses the first two segments of the new gondola, and will open for public use ahead of the 2023/24 Winter season.
Through world-first engineering inspired by Uber’s model of on-demand transport, the new gondola will provide better connections for those looking to visit the famous UNESCO World Heritage Tectonic Arena Sardona. The route begins by connecting Films and Foppa then Foppa to Startgels in stage one, before expanding to Segnes, Nagens Sura and Cassons in later stages.
In 2016, the aerial tramway to Fil de Cassons was dismantled. The existing chair lifts on the Flims – Foppa – Naraus line and the aerial tramway between Startgels and Grauberg were getting old, and it was no longer possible to modernise the Foppa-Naraus line due to its location (a red zone due to the risk of rockfall). Therefore, this project, with its plan for a new route to Fil de Cassons, allowed LAAX to take advantage of more opportunities with regard to environmental protection.
The key goals of the FlemXpress are:
- To give all guests, regardless of age, easier and disability-friendly access to the UNESCO World Heritage Tectonic Arena Sardona
- To restore access to the local Fil de Cassons mountain in Flims with as little interference as possible with the surrounding nature
- To enable flexible tourism all year round with greater comfort
- To keep one thing in mind at all times: nature comes first
The innovative idea
The FlemXpress is brought to life by the Weisse Arena Group and Bartholet Maschinenbau AG, with advice from conservation groups to replace the previous cable system. During the 15-year planning period, the idea of a fully automatic and demand-dependent gondola lift connected by several stations came to be.
On FlemXpress, the gondolas travel in the stations at a speed of 1 m/s by way of their own eMotion vehicle drive system which enables self-propelled, autonomous travel. To supply energy for this system, kinetic energy is converted into electric energy as the gondola decelerates when entering the station and accelerates when exiting. This energy is ultimately used to operate the gondolas in the station. Additionally, all gondolas are equipped with two batteries that guarantee the completion of each journey, which are charged while the guests enter and exit the gondolas.
The new Ropetaxi gondola system invented between Bartholet Maschinenbau AG in Flums and the Weisse Arena Group enables the cabins to autonomously travel in the station. Despite the absence of tyre conveyors in the stations, the level of safety is the same as in conventional gondola lifts. This also guarantees quieter travel, less maintenance work and a reduced need for wear parts. Any empty gondolas are taken off the track, so there is no extra energy in use to transport empty cars.
Roland Bartholet, CEO of Bartholet Maschinenbau AG, says: “With a conventional gondola lift, around 90% of the cabins travel empty. With FlemXpress, at least one person will be present in the cabin and the gondola goes wherever you want it to. That makes our gondola lift much more sustainable than it has ever been possible up until now.”
The guest experience
Guests simply select their desired destination with the click of a button before boarding, allowing for an uninterrupted journey without any stops. The integrated intelligent passenger allocation system with a display screen points guests to the correct stationary gondola. Guests no longer have to board a moving gondola and can do so with luggage, sports equipment, as a family, or as someone with limited mobility.
Due to the innovative technology used, the gondolas are only on the line when guests are there to be transported. This avoids empty trips and reduces the environmental impact. The use of switching mechanisms also makes flexible route combinations possible.
Paving the way
The Flem Xpress is a collaborative effort, bringing together different organisations to build something with one core focus: sustainability.
Reto Gurtner, Chairman and Delegate of the Board of Directors for the Weisse Arena Group says: “We have established mutual trust [with environmental conservation groups] by striving to find a solution that goes beyond our obligations, i.e. beyond the minimum legal requirements.
Our goal was to create what is known as ‘non-architecture’ – architecture that does not interfere with the mountain or negatively impact the surrounding nature. The emphasis should be on the landscape and not the gondola systems.”
Once in use, the new gondola will use up to 50% less energy consumption than the previous chairlifts, in addition to its significantly shrunk footprint. This was achieved by grouping the gondolas together to the left of the Filmserstein, therefore leaving nature untouched to the right. All new stations have been designed to blend into the natural surroundings and use local materials for contruction.
Through this project, the gondola was designed for minimal interference with the landscape, allowing nature and the wildlife habitat to be expanded once more.
Each gondola is equipped with two phone charging stations and will be able to hold 10 people, and in the summer can hold five people and their bikes. At full capacity the gondola will be able to transport 1,500 people per hour.
For further press information, please contact:
Hannah Carlisle | Chloe Hernandez | Braden Cantalope
T: +44 (0)203 440 8930
E: [email protected]
Notes to Editors:
The quotes provided in this release were sourced from the ‘FlemXpress Diary’ and the FlemXpress website.
‘FlemXpress Diary’ is a series of Youtube videos posted to the official LAAX account. The documentary videos followed the development of the Flem Xpress and interviewed the innovators involved while showcasing the behind the scenes of its progress.
About LAAX, Switzerland:
The region of Flims Laax Falera in the Swiss Alps, only 90 minutes by car from Zurich, is marketed under the brand LAAX. It stands for a unique lifestyle, a wide range of outdoor adventures and impresses with its breath-taking mountain landscape, characterised by natural phenomena. From hiking and biking in summer to skiing and snowboarding in winter – LAAX offers the ideal infrastructure embedded in a unique scenery.
For more information visit: https://www.laax.com/