China’s controversial “straddling bus” – a bus-train hybrid the size of a commuter ferry so called because it reduces road congestion by literally moving above cars and buses – complies with strict international standards, according to the project’s technology adviser.
Dr He Dahai, from Tongji University’s School of Materials Science and Engineering, said each step in the design of the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) referenced national and often overseas standards for roads and trains, the Science and Technology Daily reported.
“The standards we referenced most were for German trams because their control systems are similar to the TEB,” said He, who is also the chief vehicle designer at the National Maglev Transportation Engineering Technology Centre.
He at first was reluctant to work on the TEB, describing the task as being “as hard as biting bones”.
The TEB is a new type vehicle that resembles a catamaran but is designed to run on rails and rises two metres above the road, allowing cars to pass underneath.
The bus, which is 22m long and 7.8m wide, began trials this month in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province.
Since then the project has been under constant media scrutiny over its safety and feasibility. Some domestic media also cast doubts about its owner, an asset management company they say has been offering far higher returns than banks.
The giant vehicle’s steering abilities appear to be the main technological concern. He said the TEB’s minimum turning radius was 45-50m and its wheels on either side must be controlled to run at different speeds when making turns. Concertina connections will be installed between carriages and its steering system will be similar to those on mutiple-carriage buses.
The bus has a maximum speed of 60km/h, slower than ordinary cars in general traffic conditions, so there was a small possibility that the TEB would collide with cars, He said.
In future, some TEB stops will have fences about 800m long and 30cm high to prevent cars coming too come too close. The TEB’s surveillance features can monitor the distance between itself and cars and there are various forms of alerts.
“The size and shape of TEB is not fixed and we can adjust the height or length to meet specific needs in different cities,” He said.
The two sides of the TEB that house the wheels feature voids that allow drivers of cars running beneath the vehicle to see some of the scenery outside the bus. This will alleviate the illusion that their cars are moving backwards when they are driving slower than the TEB.
The underside of the TEB’s floor included ceiling mounted lighting for the cars, similar to tunnel lighting.
“The TEB will not replace trams, subways or traditional buses. It is just a new public transport option and an alternative solution to city traffic jams,” He said.
“Research and production are carried out according to strict standards, but every experiment and test involves complicated and rigorous procedures,” He said. “So please be patient.”