The Mass Transit topic is a one very close to my heart. When the NDA government was in power, ABV cleared the way for a totally indigenous, safe and low cost Mass rapid transit system, the Skybus.
In August 2001, the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee cleared a massive programme to develop the Skybus in eight cities - Mumbai , Delhi, Kolkata , Chennai, Ahmedabad , Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad. Other cities like Goa, Coimbatore and Kochi had also viewed the Skybus with favour. Link
I followed the Skybus in very fine detail .The Skybus is the idea of B Rajaram the same person who invented the Anti Collision Device used in Konkan Railways. Though he would need no introduction, his bio is as follows:
Mr. B. Rajaram (born 1945) is a First Class First with Distinction Engineering graduate and an M.Tech from IIT/Kharagpur. Having served a decade in railway open line in various capacities, another decade in Railway research at RDSO & IIT, worked abroad as consultant till 1990. He was involved with the Konkan railway project from the beginning of construction (1990) as a Chief Engineer, Director (Projects) and finally as the Managing Director(1998 to Jan, 2005)- instrumental in delivering more than 100 tunnels(including Mumbai-Pune Expressway tunnels), close to 2000 bridges and 750 km of live running tracks through treacherous terrain. He took the First train across to commission Konkan Railway on 26th Jan 1998. The World Bank praised his management practices.
He holds several patents abroad and in India for his inventions. His inventions cover railway technologies, world’s first Intelligent Anti- collision Devices Network,"RAKSHA KAVACH" (already under implementation over 2500km of route on Indian Railways), Sky Bus Metro (concept first presented in Bologna University Italy, by him in 1989)- in all 17 patents are assigned by him to the Government, through Konkan Railway Corporation, the royalty streams valued ( by Pricewaterhouse Coopers) at Rs 20,000 to 30,000 cr over 10 years with NPV of over Rs 8000 cr, if nurtured over next three years.http://rajarambojji.atrilab.com/
B Rajaram Blog Profile - Blog
Currently, the Government of India and various state governments are providing vast amounts of money for the Metro and the Monorail. However, Skybus is completely out of favour with not a single state committing to it. When it was being talked about in the NDA days around 2001-02, I saw a detailed presentation along with explanations on how the Skybus could not only better the available technologies for Mass Transit – the Metro and Monorail – it would also generate better use of space on which it is being constructed. At a cost of 50 paise per km for the commuter, it was supposed to be the cheapest at that time.
After the NDA was voted out of power, and UPA 1 came to being, B Rajaram and Skybus too fell out of favour. On a personal level, B Rajaram himself is what we would call an Indic, Sanatan Dharmic and definitely BR material! Perhaps like the foolish MP of the Congreess labeled Kargil as BJP’s war
, Skybus too became “ BJP technology” and let it be said, Rajaram himself , through wink wink - nudge nudge ways of the powerful babus, was labeled BJPwala in the powerful corridors of babudom. Also, it is not hidden from those in the know that Skybus was scuttled from within by lobbies that wanted systems like the Metro and the Monorail to be the preferred transit system. Though, B Rajaram wouldn’t name him publicly. Also since the person is such a *celebrated* figure in mass transit circles, naming him is of little use. But it is no secret who did the job!
Coming back to Skybus, it should not be implemented just because it was developed in India. It must have been implemented if it met the needs, was inexpensive, and generated revenue better than existing mass transit systems. Moreover, if we implemented an innovative technology in India first, we could have taken the same to different parts of the world. Much like what is happening in the Telecom sector. But if the same is not provided space in the host country itself, how would it be tested elsewhere? In the official site for Mumbai monorail
, I read that it is going to be rubber wheel based, which means a low passenger load of maximum 15000 -25000 passengers per hour per direction at schedule speed of 31 kmph; which is half the capacity of the Skybus at highercost! The Monorail will be 20 km in the first route that is Jacob Circle- Wadala-Chembur for around 2460 crores. The Chennai Metro
will cost 14,600 crores for the two corridors totaling 50.1 km.
Here are some links to focus more light on the issue:
National Geo video – Hindi :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDKAeIYo91c
Official Channel – Skybus Hyderabad Metro:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5qeL4vvOy0&feature=fvw
On his official channel at youtube, Rajaram replies to comments and here are some of his comments
A test track exists in Goa and tested and and certified results also obtained by me. But the Government owns the intellectual property as donated by me.. and is a poor business manager. It requires blessings of a political boss.
Well the scenes are terrible with young men just hanging out with a toe hold on the foot board. It is dangerous. Same is the ride in suburban trains in Mumbai. In Mumbai annually 5000+ lives are lost on suburban rail system. We have solutions within our affordability and better ones like Skybus metro rail, superior to what Delhi has got at 4 times the cost. But our leaders want only the most expensive inferior solution willingly sacrificing lives of others, waiting for huge funds!
Anyway it has not been adopted in Hyderabad, even though full funding not loan, was offered by Hon'ble Prime Minister of Malaysia, in honour of the inventor living in Hyderabad! Government wants to spend their own funds and put up conventional metro rail of old technology, at double the cost!!! Like God's ways, government's also are mysterious! Hope one day the expensive old style metro rail takes off and solves our traffic problem.
Political class has to act.. in democracy people have a say but in India they just quietly and stoically suffer! It is nice to take to profession of politics in India! There seems to be no serious pressure on the rulers by the intelligentia amongst people who are ruled!
Honest engineers lost to lobbies who can influence the governments! So Skybus waits for youth of the country to raise our nation from the rut we seniors managed to place her over 6o years of political independence leading to mental slavery and bankruptcy.
No pessimism in life! Innovation always suffers from persecution and disinformation. Post accident of an experimental system, the certified system proved itself and still exists though neglected.. The strength of idea will carry it forward , and one wise and courageous honest leader in political circle has to take the step to adopt. I believe it will happen.
Finally, a must read article on Monorail versus Skybus in Sucheta Dalal’s magazine:
Read in full.
Monorail not a good option, says expert http://www.suchetadalal.com/?id=839fd001-0584-e872-4b5829caaeb0&base=sections&f
The country’s first monorail planned in Mumbai will have four cars instead of eight. An expert believes that the term ‘monorail’ is actually a misnomer.
“(The) monorail is a misnomer. It actually runs on rubber tyres. The loading density is no better than a bus. Only steel wheels on steel rails can optimally carry (more) load,” said Rajaram Bojji, former managing director, Konkan Railway.
According to Mr Bojji, Skybus is also cost-effective compared to the monorail. The Mumbai monorail is being developed at a cost of Rs2,460 crore for a 19.5-km stretch
, which translates to more than Rs100 crore per km. In comparison, the test track for the Skybus at Goa—along with rolling-stock units, two traverses and a station—was constructed at an average cost of less than Rs36 crore per km within 6 months.
I wonder if Skybus can be granted a trial run in Gujarat. (Honestly, I do not believe it will get a say in the Congreess ones, apologies to bring politics in this topic, but no topic is devoid of political overtures.) Perhaps members who are on business communication terms with the Gujarat government can take it forward. Maybe we will see the same in this decade.