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This amazing looping elevator system could help ease commuting stress

We first heard about Thyssenkrupp’s revolutionary horizontal/vertical elevator system a couple of years ago when it was proposed as a solution for moving people around skyscrapers in a more efficient manner.

Well, the German engineering giant is still working on the technology, which it says could also be used for subway systems such as London’s sprawling Underground network.

The oldest system of its kind in the world, some of the London Underground’s biggest stations have, over the years, become subterranean mazes of seemingly endless tunnels connecting a multitude of train lines and entry/exit points. Yes, the experience of trying to find your way among a crowd of thousands trying to find their way can be tiring for your brain as well as your legs.

A recent panel comprising Thyssenkrupp, Transport for London, and architecture firm Weston Williamson, among others, has been looking at the viability of the high-tech elevator system, which uses rope-less linear motors that allow the passenger capsules to make 90-degree turns. The German company suggests its technology could be useful for the London Underground’s busiest stations, such as Waterloo which handles around 95 million passengers a year.

The system allows “multiple cabins to travel safely up one shaft and down another in a single continuous loop,” the company explains on its website. Although there’d be fewer shafts compared to standard elevator systems, the loop design means a capsule would arrive every 15 to 30 seconds. That’s right, long waits and the sight of impatient folks repeatedly hitting the “call” button could become a thing of the past.

For subway systems, Thyssenkrupp suggests its elevators could offer multiple line and track buttons for larger stations, with the elevator able to transport passengers to the specific track inside the station far more quickly than currently possible.

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Chris Williamson, co-founder and partner at architecture firm Weston Williamson, said: “For most commuters it is … important to swiftly and comfortably access the deepest platform [and] to move quickly from station A to B.” Williamson suggests that Thyssenkrupp’s rope-less elevator technology “has the potential to redefine existing infrastructure, and open up unprecedented levels of access both in between platforms, and from the platforms to the world above.”

He says new technology like this is key for future city design and “could provide a game-changing solution to solve the mobility issues that so many underground networks now face.” Williamson adds that it also has the potential to allow for station extensions, “making it possible to build new train lines underneath the existing ones, to increase capacity even further.”

Thyssenkrupp is currently installing its elevator technology in a specially built tower in southern Germany, with tests due to start next year.