By Shudip Talukdar, Madgaon (Goa), Aug 5 IANS | 2 years ago

The Konkan Railway's decision to scrap the SkyBus is a loss to the people of India, says the main who had designed and developed the innovative technology.

"All rights are with government. They can do what they please. I have no say. It is the engineers of India who did the work. But the losers are the people of India," Bojji Rajaram, former Konkan Railway (KR) CMD, told IANS from Hyderabad.

The shiny prototype, suspended from a 10-metre-high, 1.6-km-long test track, just outside Madgaon station in Goa, became one of the most iconic symbols of Indian engineering skills.

The SkyBus project was former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's New Year gift to Goa in 2003. It has been lying in limbo since then.

The pilot project, under the first phase, was to have linked Mapusa with Panaji, with the initial route stretching 10.5 km.

The air-conditioned, twin-coach module combines the strength of a steel carriage with the flexibility of a bus.

"It is a sad decision to scrap the project. We invited global expression of interest for the project twice but did not get any favourable response," said B.P. Tayal, current KR CMD Sunday.

"A technical committee will be set up now to suggest ways for dismantling the structure," added Tayal.

KR is expected to mop up Rs.5 crore from the SkyBus scrap disposal, which is just a tenth of the Rs.50 crore which Rajaram, as the CMD, had raised for the project.

Rajaram revealed that former Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had himself written to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh in 2007, offering an outright grant of Rs.2,000 crore to help build the SkyBus in Hyderabad.

The Malaysian premier had said that he had chosen Hyderabad because it happenned to be the inventor's (Rajaram) home city. Unfortunately nothing came of the Malaysian offer, the ex-CMD said.

"Skybus happened to be the result of my own inspiration taken from the high thinking and simple living leaders of independence struggle," Rajaram said.

The SkyBus could carry six million passengers daily, or 80,000 hourly, in any direction, said Rajaram, a product of IIT-Kharagpur. He holds 17 US patents, which include the Anti-Collision Device, the SkyBus and Gravity Power transportation.

The biggest advantage of Sky Bus is that it still remains the most cost-effective alternative to the Metro rail at Rs.60-75 crore per route km as compared to Rs.215 crore for the Metro overland line and Rs.400 crore for the underground Metro, according to Rajaram.

The technology integrates 15 rail technologies, and turns the conventional approach on its head by reversing the position of the carriage and the wheels, added Rajaram.

This upside down configuration actually leverages gravity to bind the carriage wheels and the tracks inseparably in an enclosed concrete box, eliminating the possibility of either derailment or capsizing, he said.

"The Sky Bus pre-fabricated structure, unlike Metro Rail, which requires heavy infrastructure and huge capital, can be superimposed on existing roads, without altering their set-up, anchored by pillars raised on dividers," Rajaram said.

What's more, the project barely takes 24 months to commission against the five-to-seven years required by Metro systems, Rajaram added.

"American Society of Engineers, World Intellectual Property Office Geneva, as well as tough tests by the US and other nations' patent offices, have certified SkyBus as a novel invention, permanently placing it on their Proceedings and Patent Records," said Rajaram.

(Posted on 05-08-2013)