Elevators that can move both vertically and horizontally to take passengers to their intended destination could be built into the London Underground system.
The technology is already being tested by Thyssenkrupp Elevator, which is based in Germany, in several locations around the world.
It eschews the traditional rope and pulley system found in conventional elevators in favour of multiple motor-powered cabins that can be fitted into a single shaft and circulate in a continuous loop.
The technology is said to be capable of reducing wait times to between 15 to 30 seconds and can increase the passenger capacity of a single shaft by 50 per cent.
Speaking at an event focusing on the future of London Underground, Chris Williamson from architecture firm Weston Williamson + Partners put the new elevators into context.
“If you have a whole string of them running underground from a central, island platform, the passengers can get off the train, get into the lift, press a button, and go to wherever they want in the city,” he said.
“There's a whole raft of new design possibilities, it could be incredibly revolutionary,” Williamson added.
The elevator technology is being touted as a way to improve the efficiency of London’s Tube networks, which are currently struggling to cope with rapidly rising usage due to an expanding population in the capital.
“The company is already testing the testing the technology in a structure built specifically for it,” said Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO of Thyssenkrupp Elevator.
“We have built a test tower with a scale model of the system which has already been running for half a year which is opening up completely new applications for the technology.
“We're building another test tower [in Germany] because we have a need as a company to test out equipment. You have to run faster and try out new things: the best way to do that is to have a test tower.
“It will give us flexibility to do things that we cannot do at the moment.”
He explained that the elevators are flexible in their capacity according to their need with cabins currently scaling up to fit 15 people in each one. They travel at about five metres a second, which although doesn’t sound like that much, is only just slower than the speed of a London bus.
In addition, to achieve ‘optimal transport capacity’ passengers with similar destinations will be directed to the same elevators so that they do not have to stop at every single landing floor.
But Schierenbeck conceded that while his company’s new technology forms the probable future for elevators, traditional rope-based cabins ‘will still survive for smaller buildings’.
In September last year, London Underground began trialling a new system to recuperate the energy lost from braking trains.