Aerial ropeways

How a sky-scraping transport system is transforming the lives of people in remote areas.

For people who live in remote, mountainous areas, getting food to market in order to earn enough money to survive is a serious issue.

The hills are so steep that travelling down them is dangerous. A porter can help but they are expensive, and it would still take hours or even a day. The journey can take so long that their goods start to perish and become worth less and less.

Practical Action have developed an ingenious solution called an aerial ropeway.  It can either operate by gravitation force or with the use of external power.

The ropeway consists of two trolleys rolling over support tracks connected to a control cable in the middle which moves in a traditional flywheel system.

The trolley at the top is loaded with goods and can take up to 120kg. This is pulled down to the station at the bottom, either by the force of gravity or by external power.  The other trolley at the bottom is therefore pulled upwards automatically.

The external power can be produced by a micro hydro system if access to an electricity grid is not an option.

If using gravity, the goods from the top station need to be at least three times as heavy as the load going up. The speed of the trolley depends on the angle of elevation of the cables with the ground. The landing of the trolley is controlled by a brake at the bottom station.

Bharpak, Nepal

In the mountainous regions of Nepal, road-building is expensive. An affordable alternative is an electrically-powered aerial ropeway, to transport goods up the hillside.


Construction was co-ordinated by Practical Action and the Northern Gorkha Development Group. The ropeway spans 2.5km of gruelling mountain track over a 1,000m climb.

Before the ropeway was installed, this journey could take up to six hours. Most traders gave it a miss. For Bharpak, and other isolated villages higher up the valley, this meant high prices and scarce goods.

'People here have very little cash,' says Bhola Shrestha, Practical Action's programme manager. 'So if the ropeway helps people save money on necessities, that is important. Also they can have some time off. Everyone is always walking here - walking to collect water and fuel, walking to farm.'

Would a road have been a better solution? Not for Bharpak where roads are unlikely to last a season. Roads are expensive - even a gravel road would have cost at least five times more than the ropeway.

The triumph of the ropeway is its simplicity. Most of the maintenance can be done in the village, by locally trained operators. There is no fuel problem - the winch is powered by a micro-hydro scheme, which produces 35kw of power, enough to drive the ropeway by day, and supply the village with electricity by night.

Practical Action are working hard to give more communities the opportunity to use the same technology. However without your help, this is not a possibility. Please share this page with all your Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Thank you.

You can download  technical briefs and manuals on aerial ropeways at Practical Answers, the technical information service of Practical Action, or you can submit an enquiry to the Practical Action staff via the online form

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Case studies from Practical Action's gravity ropeway and tuin projects in Nepal.

Ropeways - Aerial Ropeways in Nepal

An introduction to aerial tramway / ropeway transport in Nepal including tuins, a river crossing mechanism.

Ropeways - Technical Guidelines for Gravity Goods Ropeway

A rope based transport system for mountainous regions. Practical Action Nepal & DoLIDAR, 134 pages.

Ropeways - Gravity Goods Ropeway

This story shows the whole community contributed in the construction one a ropeway in Nepal.

Gravity ropeways technical brief

Gravity ropeways technical brief

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