Unitsky String Transport (UST) is a transportation system developed by Russian inventor Anatoly Unitsky as a railway consisting not of steel tracks bolted to ties but rather elevated high-tension concrete- and steel-enveloped wires strung between towers, thereby offering rails that can traverse uneven terrain, forests, or water without the prohibitively expensive infrastructure required by conventional transit systems. Furthermore, UST can traverse obstacles in a straight line, thereby obviating the need to circumnavigate impediments or build switchbacks and considerably reducing the distance between two points.
Unitsky began developing the concept back in 1977. His design uses high-tension steel wires inserted into a concrete-resin core and enveloped by steel shells and elevated from three to 30 meters from the ground (or potentially even higher, if the terrain necessitates it). While this might sound like a conventional ropeway (like a chairlift or the Roosevelt Island Tramway), it differs in its much higher cable tension with sag of less than an inch between support posts, allowing vehicles to travel along the wires with a minimum of drag and at speeds, according to Unitsky, of between 200 and 300 mph. “In fact,” according to newatlas.com, “it’s more accurate to look at a UST track more or less as a tiny pre-stressed concrete bridge, built for a fraction of the cost of a ground rail system or even a motorway.”
The main advantage of a UST is the ability to traverse hills, mountains, shallow water, forests, or deserts in a straight line without the need for roadways, tunnels, bridges, interchanges, or switchbacks. Its elevation would be determined by the nature of the terrain—but it would always travel above the terrain, in a straight line, rather than over, through, or around it. Utilizing a minimum of materials per mile and a minimum of ground preparation, the UST is vastly cheaper to install than conventional transit systems (this is even more pronounced when compared to subsurface railroad). With high-speed cars with a capacity of 50 passengers and up to 50 tons of freight, it is an intriguing transportation alternative.
A study in 2013 demonstrated the feasibility of such a system for passenger rail in New South Wales, Australia. Currently, a prototype called EkoTehnoParka is being developed in Marina Gorka, Belarus. This will demonstrate the UST cars, or “unibuses,” in three settings: a 15-kilometer-long, high-speed line moving unibuses at speeds of up to 300 mph; a city line showcasing urban unibuses moving at speeds of up to 100 mph; and a cargo unibus line.
According to newatlas.com: “It’s earthquake-, hurricane-, and terrorist-proof, and capable of supporting vehicle speeds over 500 kmh, too, making it a genuine high-speed rail alternative, for a fraction of the price of road or ground rail alternatives. Fascinating stuff!”