Are cable cars the future of transport in UB?

Recently, the French company Poma outlined its plans for a new cable car route to connect Bayankhoshuu, one of UB’s ger districts, with the city centre.

A concept photo of UB's future cable car line. (Poma)
A concept photo of UB's future cable car line. (Poma)

The French Directorate General of the Treasury (DG Trésor) is providing finance for the cable car line. A financial protocol was signed in May 2020 followed by commercial agreements in June 2020.


The six-kilometre line will have three stations and include 122 cable cars.

“Our cable transport solution is a perfect fit with the principle of reducing environmental impact and substantially enhancing urban mobility in Ulaanbaatar and its outskirts, in particular the connection of the new district of Bayankhoshuu with the city centre,” Fabien Felli, Commercial Director and Member of the Executive Board at POMA, said.


“This is a project that makes sense for the development of this capital city and its suburbs, in the same way as has previously been achieved in Latin America and with our projects currently underway in France, in Toulouse and soon in Grenoble.”


Poma will supply the vehicles, towers and equipment, whilst rail consultancy Egis will be responsible for the design and construction of the stations and their foundations, as well as low and high voltage power.


Cable car transport was originally pioneered in the hilly Colombian city of Medellin in 2004 and is seen as a viable public transport solution in cities with significant physical obstacles, which in UB include the Tuul river and the railway line.


According to the World Bank, capital costs for new cable car lines sit around $10-25 million per kilometre (based on Latin American systems). Typical operating capacity sits around 1000-2000 people per hour per direction, which is classed as ‘moderate’ travel demand.

However, the World Bank cautions that cable cars should be developed on a ‘case-by-case’ basis and should not be seen as a magic bullet for public transport solutions.

“The possibility of developing a new cable car should be considered on a case-by-case basis as part of a thorough and comprehensive planning process,” the Bank says. “These systems, of course, are no alternative to high-capacity mass transit.


“With an average distance of 800 meters between stations, cable cars may not serve as many people as bus services, and require users to walk longer distances to and from the terminals.”


Nonetheless, the Bank argues that cable cars remain an ‘exciting and welcome addition to the toolbox of urban transport planners’, with cities around the world - including Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro, and London - using them to connect communities.


So whilst cable cars may not be the only solution to improving public transport in UB, the new route has the potential to offer significantly increased access to employment and opportunities for the capital's more isolated residents.

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