Support after Support
The Sky Line People Mover

Up and Down

The route traversed by the new Sky Line people mover extends a distance of 5.6 kilometers between the north and south of the airport. In the north it’s raised to fit in between the existing buildings and other structures. In the middle of the stretch, where it intersects an aircraft approach funnel, it runs at ground level to avoid interfering with flight operations. And in the south, the new Sky Line is once again elevated.

A large drill is needed to anchor the 1.2-meter-wide piles.

Rebars for one of the first supports for the northern stretch are already firmly anchored in the ground. A total of 135 will hold up the new people mover line.

Some of the massive supports for holding up the guideway sections, which can be up to 60 meters long, are already standing along the northern stretch.

The formwork for the supports of the new Sky Line stretch is already in place. Now the concrete can be poured.

Some of the hammerhead supports have already been completed, while work continues on other supports and frames. The guideways of the new Sky Line will later be placed on them.

Once the concrete supports have been finished, guideway sections up to 60 meters long are placed on them.

The Northern Stretch: Pile No. 69 Was First

Work to place the first piles for the northern stretch began in July 2019. Huge machines drilled holes up to 20 meters deep in the ground for all 135 of them. The drill heads used were 1.2 meters in diameter. Each of the 13-meter-tall supports rests on at least four such piles to ensure a stable base. In all, the construction workers placed 47 supports and 17 frames for the northern stretch. (Project head Wolfgang Holzhausen reports on construction of the new Sky Line route.)

A Heavy Job for Cranes

The second phase of building the northern stretch involved joining a large number of individual sections. The work resembled putting together a puzzle. Every support had a different shape and only fit in its intended location. The individual guideway sections were preassembled and supplied in one piece. Since the distances between neighboring supports could vary between 20 and 60 meters, it was impossible to use guideway sections “off the rack”; each one was unique. All of them were massive, however, weighing up to 200 tonnes. Special cranes, of which only a few exist in Germany, are needed to deal with this kind of weight.

Down to the Ground!

The central stretch of the new Sky Line people mover covers a distance of 2,200 meters alongside the A5 motorway past the two parallel runways. This required the planners to lower it. The reason is that pilots need an unhindered view when taking off or landing. If the Sky Line were as high here as in the north of the airport, it could limit visibility. For safety reasons, the decision was made to build the people mover level with the ground. Because this stretch is straight, the Sky Line trains can accelerate to 80 km/h on it.

The station at Terminal 3 for the new Sky Line people mover is located between the parking facility and the main terminal building.

The southernmost stretch carries the new Sky Line people mover at a height of about 11 meters to the station at Terminal 3. (April 2021)

The route along the southbound carriageway is taking more and more shape. 

Construction of the southern driveway must be well coordinated in order to ensure the site's accessibility.

Heated Guideways

The guardrails, emergency catwalks, and guideways for the vehicles were installed on site. So were the cables for lighting, controlling the points (the insider term for railway switches), transmitting signals and other things. Some of the guideway sections could be made directly on site, depending on their size and weight. It was possible to produce smaller ones at the workshop and deliver them. So that trains can also run in very cold weather, all of the guideways were equipped with copper pipes containing heating wires to keep the route free of snow and ice, applying a principle similar to that of underfloor heating.

Work in narrow spaces and at night

A new people mover station is taking shape between Terminal 1 and the long-distance train station. Trains will depart from it to Terminal 3. The last two guideway sections for the 5.6-kilometer-long route between the two terminals are being lifted into place right there. Since it’s essential to avoid disrupting operations around Terminal 1, this can only be done at night outside the airport’s peak operating hours. There is also only limited space for the cranes, so the 23-meter-long steel supports have to be carefully maneuvered between them and into their final resting places.