27 Nov 2023

Urban.MASS introduces economically viable zero-emission mass transit solution: Floc® Duo Rail™

Cities and their surrounding areas need good transportation. However, for most cities, the capital cost and disruption due to construction are the main prohibitive factors that prevent them from being able to improve transportation systems that are often decades or centuries old. Urban.Mass recognises this universal need. Globally, the market for new and replacement metros, rail systems and bus rapid transport (BRT) remains strong as cities seek to decarbonise urban transport and improve city connectivity. Detailed analysis by US-based SMG Consulting, commissioned by Urban.MASS, reportedly identified a total addressable market of $814.3bn in projects across 213 cities in 41 countries. 

The mobility and transportation industry contributes significantly to the climate emergency, undermining efforts to decarbonise and achieve net zero targets.  The World Bank reports that cities account for over 70% of global CO2 emissions [1]. Most of these emissions come from industrial and motorised transport systems that use huge quantities of fossil fuels and rely on outdated infrastructure which was constructed using carbon-intensive materials. A 2021 analysis led by Oxford University shows that at least 240 cities globally have set net-zero or carbon-neutral targets for 2050 or sooner [2]. According to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, 2023 is expected to be the hottest year ever recorded. The planet is facing a climate crisis [3], and there is growing pressure across the world to address these issues related to the mobility and transportation industry. 

 Despite this commitment, many cities are still struggling to combat transportation-related pollution due to the scarcity of affordable and convenient alternatives [4]. Cities that are planning to improve local public transport face several unsatisfactory options. This includes buses that clog busy streets [5], trams that reduce traffic but are far more costly [6], and off-road solutions such as light or heavy rail that are hugely capital intensive and disruptive to build [7]. This highlights the urgent need for innovative, sustainable, and affordable mass transit solutions that will enable cities to remain connected. Disruptive technologies are imperative in this industry, and Urban.MASS plans to tackle these issues head-on. 

With a focus on global mobility, co-founder Ricky Sandhu is committed to creating net-zero solutions that can contribute to an inclusive, healthy and sustainable future. In 2019, his passion for delivering ethical and sustainable contributions to communities through innovative designs and technologies led to the initial concept for Urban.MASS. Upon meeting John Emanuel, future co-founder of Urban.MASS, Ricky immediately recognised that their combined knowledge and skills would allow them to revolutionise the industry. John’s experience in transit technology, along with his more than 40 years of experience in city connectivity, brought him to understand that improved services and lower capital and operating costs would make shared transport affordable to build and attractive to use. His search for practical solutions resulted in the revolutionary transportation system upon which Urban.MASS is built, the Floc system. 

What does Urban.MASS do? 

Urban.MASS is a tech mobility company specialising in the design and development of innovative zero-emission mass transit mobility solutions. The company is developing Floc – electrically powered driverless pods, which can run cantilevered on the Duo Rail, an elevated track. 

 With Floc Duo Rail, Urban.MASS will provide cities with a cost-effective, sustainable, and driverless on-demand system that meets the requirements of a zero-carbon and clean air future while also supporting a new era of urbanisation.   

 The company aims to offer cities around the world transformative off-road transit systems that cut both capital costs and environmental impact in half. The Duo Rail system can be rapidly deployed via installation rather than construction, which the company claims is 50% less expensive and has a 60% smaller footprint than competitive systems.  

 Uniquely, Floc-pod platoons can also deploy Floc-cargo specific pods for goods delivery and waste removal or entirely separate cargo, logistics and delivery platoons that may be deployed at low passenger demand profiles. 

Why Urban.MASS is excited... 

Floc Duo Rail is a revolutionary transportation system that aims to drastically reduce costs and potential delays for cities and passengers. It emits less than half the CO2 of any competitive urban off-road alternative. The company estimates that with Floc Duo Rail, cities will benefit from between 50% to 70% emissions savings on manufacturing and construction due to its unique track design, which requires minimal materials and earthworks. They will also benefit from between 30% to 50% emissions savings on operation due to the company’s renewable off-grid capability which is achieved via solar energy canopy and platoon size that can be matched to specific demands. In addition, cities will also save up to 50% on carbon emissions by shifting riders from personal vehicles to the Floc Duo Rail system.  

How does Urban.MASS work? 

Floc Duo Rail lines can be installed quickly due to their light infrastructure which uses far less concrete and steel than light rail systems. The transit system utilises smart driverless platoons that match capacity to demand, reducing unnecessary energy consumption. Platoons can also be divided into shorter lengths to serve outlying suburbs, allowing for high-frequency services throughout the Duo Rail network. In addition, solar panels provide a significant portion of the energy required for its operation. 

 Floc Duo Rail systems can be scaled from small local links to city-wide networks. This means that a system can be expanded as needs grow and budgets permit. If necessary, the elevated track section of the Duo Rail can be relocated easily. It can be installed in an elevated building interface, over water or through tunnels. In addition, Floc Duo Rail stations are scaled to meet rider demand, ranging from small areas like bus stops to large city-centre interchanges.  

Who is Urban.MASS helping? 

According to Urban.Mass, the company’s driverless carriages and smart tracks work hand-in-glove to provide a game-changing new mass public transport and urban logistics system that will improve quality of life and deliver a healthier and more sustainable future for all. As of 2023, Urban.MASS has identified 544 possible projects in 214 cities across 40 countries. The company will initially focus on the Middle East, Europe and North America. 

Urban.MASS plans to start with smaller systems such as ‘feeder’ lines and links from airports and, in time, to grow the company to provide city-wide metros. Focusing globally, the company’s target projects are point-to-point networks suitable for smaller estates such as tourist destinations, airports, or property developments, as well as simple and complex networks suitable for larger estates, towns, and cities.  

The founders' story

Ricky Sandhu
Co-founder and Chairman
John Emanuel
Co-founder and CTO

Ricky is one of the youngest equity partners at Foster + Partners in history. He worked with the company for 16 years on some of the world’s largest and most iconic infrastructure projects. He holds a master’s degree in architecture from the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London, during which he also spent a semester at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Nottingham University, and an award-winning diploma of architecture. 

John has over 40 years of international experience in innovative technology in the engineering and transport sectors. In 1978, he set up a technology transfer company, which would be retained by large companies to search the world for innovations they could acquire or incorporate into their business. John has previously worked for multinational companies based in the UK, US and Belgium. For many years, he held the position of chairman of the Institute of International Licensing Practitioners John holds a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences from Cambridge University.  

The next steps… 

By July 2023, Urban.MASS had secured a project in the National Railway Museum – the Shildon Floc and Duo Rail Demonstrator. The company is also working on proposed projects in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. In addition, Urban.MASS also reports agreements in place with several globally recognised strategic partners including Lotus Cars, Fleetonomy.ai, Grimshaw Architects and WSP. 

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