Transport solution could be over our heads

At a time when Aberdeen is looking at implement a new City Centre Masterplan and looking at ways to connect the city centre more effectively to Aberdeen Beach, is this a time to reconsider my previous suggestion of a city centre monorail?

Now, please don’t start laughing – I had enough of that when I first floated the idea some 12 years ago. The problem is that, in Britain, we tend to think of monorails as a fantasy – probably because our experience of them is mainly in theme parks, like Disneyland or Disney World. Or possibly in that glorified adult fantasy park, Las Vegas.

monorail for Aberdeen?

But the reality is that monorails are an effective means of transport in many cities, with notable examples including Seattle, Tokyo and the aforementioned Las Vegas.

Why did I suggest a monorail for Aberdeen?

Well at the time I made my suggestion plans were just emerging for Union Square and the issue of how to connect it, and the station, to Union Street and the other shopping centres, was beginning to exercise minds. (As so often in Aberdeen it was all talk and no action as, years after Union Square was completed, there is still no effective connection between it and the city centre.)

My vision was a monorail that would run in a loop from the station and the future Union Square shopping centre, up Bridge Street and along Union Street, to the upper deck of the St Nicholas Centre. From there it would loop up Upperkirkgate, in front of Marischal College then past the Maritime Museum and back to the station.

In discussion with others, it was later suggested that a second, longer loop could be added to Aberdeen Beach and back by the Harbour to the station.

What was the attraction of the monorail?

The big advantage of a monorail is that it could be added into the city centre with minimal intrusion and disruption of traffic and pedestrians.

The pylons carrying the rail are the only thing that takes up space at ground level. In operation, the monorail passes over busy junctions, traffic and pedestrians. With monorails, pedestrianised areas can be fully pedestrianised, but still have transport.

Stations can be above street level and in that context the upper deck of the St Nicholas Centre could almost have been designed as a hub for a monorail system. Other stations could be incorporated into the under-utilised first floors of existing buildings.

So, other than a means of transport that doesn’t conflict with street level traffic, what advantages would a monorail have for Aberdeen?

  • It would make a statement about the city having a world-class, innovative transport system.
  • It would connect the station and Union Square to the city centre.
  • It would connect the beach and the harbour to the city centre.
  • It would not conflict with vehicle traffic, snarl-up junctions or conflict with pedestrians.
  • It would not get held up in traffic jams.
  • It would ‘showcase’ our city centre – passing tourist landmarks like Union Street, Marischal College, the Town House, Castlegate, the beach and provide a grandstand view of the activity at Aberdeen Harbour.
  • It would be a visitor attraction in itself – just look at the people who throng to get onto monorails around the world.

It’s surely worth investigating.

If, after examination, the idea still seems ridiculous, then you can laugh. But not before!

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