Safety on cable

Urban cableways are considered the world´s safest means of transport: The German Federal Statistical Office reports only one accident per 17.1 million kilometers travelled by cableways as a means of transport. That’s a better safety record than travel by car (one accident per 1.46 mill. km), railway (one accident per 1.31 mill. km), bus (one accident per 616,000 kilometers) or tram (one accident per 225,000 km). Only airplanes are safer with one accident per 113 million kilometers. In terms of total number of passengers transported, cableways are the safest means of transport of all.

If despite all the cableway technology a rescue action becomes necessary, we can rely on concepts, technologies and products tried and tested over decades. Photo: IMMOOS

Exclusive paths


This is especially thanks to the exclusive paths which are owned by the cableways. There is no collision with other traffic participants because the “path” is only used by the cableway. There are no traffic jams or other obstacles that could impair the cableway’s operation. If the cableway must be stopped due to winds or bad weather conditions, its cabins can be detached and parked in a garage.

But this scenario is implemented rarely because there are cableways, such as multi-cable gondolas, for example, that can easily withstand winds of over 100 kilometers per hour. Special protective equipment ensures that the cables do not derail. “Most accidents are caused by passenger misconduct while getting in or out of the cabin, not by technical failures,” explains Gabor Oblatka, Professor at the ETH Zurich. Thanks to double drives, urbane cableways can avoid stops and prolonged standstills en route in the event of a disruption or accident. Thus, emergency rescues must be carried out extremely rarely.

Video cameras in stations and cabins are standard. Photo: Fotolia

Proven rescue concepts


A certified evacuation concept based on multi-level back-up systems ensures that even in case of individual technical components’ failure, the cableway continues to run and all gondola cars are always brought back to the stations. If despite all this, a rescue action becomes necessary, we can rely on concepts, technologies and products that have been tried and tested over decades.


And whether it is cable descending equipment, well-educated rescue teams with safety gear, or sophisticated rescue plans – no cableway If despite all the cableway technology a rescue action becomes necessary, we can rely on concepts, technologies and products tried and tested over decades. Photo: IMMOOS 43 will be approved without a proper safety concept.

Video monitoring possible

In addition, cableways can be equipped with an audio and video communications system and monitored centrally. Criminals have little chance of escaping in the stations with platform screen doors and secured exits. The platform screen doors do not open for passengers getting on until the gondola car is standing right in front of them. That way, nobody can get into the incoming car’s way.

Cableways can be centrally controlled and monitored. Photo: LEITNER ropeways


Windows usually remain closed and the cabins are well ventilated. This prevents the dropping of objects or stillburning cigarette butts. The peering of passengers into the private gardens and courtyards can be prevented by blinds with horizontal slats, opaque window glass and all-round collars. Thanks to all that, fear of heights occurs less frequently and the privacy of those living below the cableway remains preserved.

Fear lurks in the heads


Despite all these comforting facts, cableways are perceived as a dangerous means of transport in the heads of many. A whole night spent in a gondola with a yawning abyss underneath the cage – it is this kind of report that evokes fear and stress even in those uninvolved and exerts a dark fascination. “Almost everyone has once taken a cableway and that makes one feel highly empathetic with those affected,” explains a social psychologist Dieter Frey from the University of Munich.


A standstill, fall and collision – plastic, concrete dangers that everyone can immediately picture. A cableway accident doesn’t usually come in single bang, like, for example, the fall of an aircraft – it evolves over a time of anxiety and uncertainty. Just experiencing the loss of control can develop fear in cableway passengers. They cannot do anything, they are utterly and completely at someone else’s mercy.


“This feeling of powerlessness is perceived even stronger by passengers in a cableway than those travelling in an aircraft. It is intensified by the sensory impressions connected with the gondola,” explains Frey. The cold, the swinging, the height. Compared to a plane, here the abyss is a concrete imminent threat, the distance from the ground seems larger than it is, and the gondola’s suspension cable feels like a silk thread.


This psychologically conditioned fear of accidents, falls and standstills is one of the greatest obstacles to implementing urban cableways. It has to be removed through intensive persuasive efforts. As Anton Seeber, CEO of the cableway manufacturer LEITNER ropeways, appealed in the SI Urban issue no. 2/17: “We must dispel people’s fear that cableways are dangerous”. ts