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China plans 'super bus' to ease traffic jams

Last updated on: August 24, 2010 17:58 IST

China plans 'super bus' to ease traffic jams

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K J M Varma in Beijing

China is gearing up to road test an eco-friendly 'straddle' super bus, which is high enough to allow a two-lane tunnel beneath it for cars to pass through.

The bus, its inventors hope, would ease traffic in the capital Beijing which, despite its eight-lane infrastructure often gets choked with traffic.

A prototype of the super bus is expected to roll out onto the road by December, three months after the 40-day-long design phase is completed, the official Global Times newspaper reported today.

It is expected to commence trials on a six-km stretch of road along the West Sixth Ring Road in Mentougou district.

The concept of the 'straddle' bus is unique as cars could drive under its huge uplifted passenger compartment between its 2.2-meter-long legs.

The two bus legs leave a 'tunnel' wide enough for two lanes of small or medium-sized vehicles -- 1.55 to 1.6 meters high, in general -- to drive right through under the moving bus.

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Image: Straddle super bus.

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Straddling a bus is a brand new idea, said Zhang Yiwen, a graduate at the School of Mechanical Engineering of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, who helped produce the feasibility.

He admitted that some people had safety fears about the concept but proper measures have been taken to avoid danger and laser scanners between the legs warn vehicles to keep a safe distance.

The bus will be fitted with an ultrasonic detector on its tail to measure the size of incoming vehicles and deny entry to the oversized. To use the bus, roads must first be modified by installing elevated bus stops for pedestrians, a new set of traffic signal control systems and special tracks for the wheels on the end of the bus' legs.

"The idea is to make full use of the space above the traffic flow and beneath the height of overpasses, boosting traffic efficiency," Song explained.

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Image: Straddle super bus.

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The bus can slash traffic congestion by 20 to 30 per cent, he said, and when its technology gets matured, the price of one km of straddle bus line would be about 50 million yuan ($7.3 million) -- 10 per cent of the cost of a subway.

Unlike other buses, the straddle bus does not take up road, but simply adds a higher traffic layer for mass public transportation above the original road.

Due to its potential efficiency and cost saving, Beijing is now considering the bus as part of the city's long-term traffic design in which Beijing will have more than 1,000 kilometers of rail track, Song said. Powered by electricity and solar power, the straddle bus can travel up to 60 km per hour.


Image: Traffic congestion in Beijing.

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