There can surely be few children of the 80's who don't fondly remember Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its classic cinematic adaptation. So it will come as a pleasant surprise to millions to learn that the London Underground might soon be getting an elevator inspired by the great glass elevator from the beloved children's novel and its sequel, in which the titular elevator shot the Bucket family and chocolate factory owner and perpetual man-child Willy Wonka into space (we're still waiting on the film of that one).
This rope-less, rotating lift that can move both horizontally and vertically, as well as turn corners, could be coming to the London Underground as early as 2025, which is wonderful news on two fronts: the London Underground's current system of escalators is far from ideal and the elevator itself looks VERY cool.
“MULTI offers a practical solution that could ease congestion in dozens of underground networks across the world”
The MULTI elevator system designed by Thyssenkrupp Elevator, the German company responsible for the world’s fastest lift at One World Trade Center in New York, breaks the 160-year-old tradition of rope-driven lifts. It has also been designed to increase shaft capacity by 50% by allowing multiple motor-powered cabins to travel up one shaft and down another in a continuous loop, like a circular shuttle. Although it was originally designed to be used in skyscrapers, the team soon discovered that the technology could also be used to address the mobility and efficiency challenges increasingly being faced by urban transport hubs such as the London Underground. Thyssenkrupp Elevator CEO, Andreas Schierenbeck, said: “MULTI offers a practical solution that could ease congestion in dozens of underground networks across the world. If applied, it would undoubtedly change the face of London’s transport networks.”
The MULTI rope-less elevator for metros
Of course, Thyssenkrupp are not the only group primed to reinvent the London Underground. A recent panel talk dubbed “Future London Underground,” has seen representatives from Transport for London (TfL); architectural firm Weston Williamson + Partners; business membership organisation London First, and professional services firms Arup and WSP, discuss how the Tube network could look in 2025. The panel talk comes as passenger numbers on the London Underground have risen by 33% in the past decade and an estimated 1.34 billion passengers use the underground every year.
“MULTI has the potential to open up unprecedented levels of access both in-between platforms, and from the platforms to the world above”
Commenting on the panel discussion, Co-Founder and Partner at West Williamson + Partners, Chris Williamson, said: “MULTI has the potential to redefine existing infrastructure, and open up unprecedented levels of access both in-between platforms, and from the platforms to the world above. What’s more, it could also allow further growth of stations below the ground, making it possible to build new train lines underneath the existing ones, to increase capacity even further.” A TfL Spokesperson, added: “Although there are currently no plans to introduce a lift of this type on our network, we are always interested in hearing about how new technology can better improve our services for our customers.” So they haven't ruled it out exactly, but right now, it's probably an outside chance. Still, it's certainly something to hope for! MULTI is currently being installed to be tested at Thyssenkrupp’s purpose-built Test Tower. The first working installation is expected to be built at some point in 2017.