Urban solutions

And why they fail in many cities

Large cities worldwide face the same problem: street traffic continues to grow and people spend hours stuck in miles of traffic jams. Drivers’ nerves become frayed; serious environment pollution increases. Though integrating cableways into the existing public transport network is considered time and again, in the end the idea is dismissed. The following examples demonstrate the obstacles that cause cableway projects to die.

In Trier experts thought about a cablecar. Photo: ttm Trier


Cableways can relieve ground traffic networks and add a new dimension. They also overcome topographic obstacles, have a connecting function, they are quiet and relatively inexpensive both in terms of construction and maintenance. Although there are a few isolated urban cableways operating in the German-speaking region, they mainly serve as a tourist attraction or were built for a special occasion (e.g. the Horticultural Exhibition in Berlin). For years, there have been efforts to include cableways in transport policy plans. But those plans often disappear to the back of a drawer.

Even the Hanseatic City of Hamburg once had plans for a cableway. But in the end, the majority of people voted against it in a local referendum. Photo: www.hamburgfotos- bilder.de

The Hamburg example

This was the plan: two city parts, St. Pauli and Wilhelmsburg, were to be connected by a 1.5-kilometer-long circulating 3S cable car. An interstation was planned near the musical theater at the Elbe port. After long preparations, the project was first introduced to the public in 2011. But then it was rejected by the residents in a referendum held in 2014. The reason: the planned cableway was not seen as a means of transport but rather a feeder for the musicals. Its opponents objected that it would interfere with the recreational function of the park on the Elbe River and considered the gondolas that would be gliding above residential buildings an alarming intrusion into privacy.

The Ulm example

The plan to connect Ulm’s main train station with the local university goes back to 2011. It was dismissed only a year later. The driving force behind the plan was a local landscape architect, Berthold Stückle. He introduced the cableway project as an alternative to building a second tramway line. His arguments were the following: with more than 11,500 work places and over 12,000 students, Ulm University is not just an important business location but also a large traffic generator. The city council opted for the new tramway without conducting any comparison of the two alternatives. Incidentally, the new tramway proved to be the most expensive transport project in Ulm’s history, swallowing some 220 million euros

Koblenz is an example for many cities: its cableway, originally built for the Federal Horticultural Exhibition, is still in operation today. Photo: Skyglide

The Trier example

In Trier, construction of a cableway was first considered as early as the 1970s. Experts from the Institute for Applied Geography thought about possible solutions for the existing street traffic situation. They wanted to connect the city center, or the main train station, with the university grounds and the new residential area at the Tarforster Plateau. In 2012, the city council decided that the cableway option would not be followed up.

In Cologne, a new cableway serving as a means of local transport was to be added to the existing tourist cable car but other projects were given priority. Photo: Kölner Seilbahn

The Cologne example

In Cologne, the idea was to connect both railway stations with an approx. 1,200-meter-long cableway – crossing the obstacle posed by the Rhine. In 2009, a feasibility study was commissioned. Although the project came off well in the study, it was stopped. The reason: other projects had priority. There have been attempts, or proposals, to alleviate local traffic in other cities, too.


The Karlsruhe Institute for Technology conducted a detailed study on the feasibility, opportunities and hindrances relating to urban aerial cableways. The report mentions numerous cities where the idea of an urban cableway as a transport solution was considered but not followed up , for example Aachen (an alternative to a tramway), Berlin (Bahnhof Zoo - Potsdamer Platz), Bochum (city center - Ruhrpark), Ludwigsburg (Ludwigsburg - Markgröningen), Marburg (city center - university/ university clinic), Munich (Thalkirchen - Zoo - Harlaching, Harthof - Garching - Hochbrück), or Wolfsburg (Phaeno - Allerpark - Plaza).