Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Replies to Times of India

sudip talukdar <sudip_talukdar@hotmail.com> wrote:
Mr B. Rajaram

Answers provided underlined.

Why has an indigenously developed technology like the Sky Bus been under sustained attack?

Our country has been conditioned to think that our engineers cannot produce any thing of world class, commenting " if it is so good, America would have done that" , deprecating our indigenous efforts. The Sky Bus technology causes paradigm shift to not only urban transport but also to the way Ports will work, Airports operate and also design of High Speed trains. The Sky Bus Technology is safer, eco-friendly, rapid mass transit system for cities with same capacities as an underground metro, transports cargo too, which others cannot do and takes only two/ three years to complete a net work of 30 to 50 km in a city. More importantly the Sky Bus system costs less than half to one-fourth the cost of existing technologies and for the first time in the world urban transport is made financially viable - at affordable pricing of 50ps per km of airconditioned travel or Rs 500 per family per month to travel 1000 km. The technology is a direct threat to all the well established technology lobbies selling yester year products in our country aggressively. Hence well orchestrated opposition is sustained by the high cost technology proponents to protect their self interest

Why did the prototype develop snags during tests in Madgaon recently. Have you drawn any lessons from the accident.?

The technology of the Sky Bus is so safe that no human life can be lost, by design. The accident occured while partial testing of one sub-element of an automated working, was in progress under expert supervision with facility to abort experiment the if found necessary. In the emergency procedure, power was cutoff disabling the electrical braking , and the mechanical brakes failed to take action, in this case. Even then nothing would have happened except the Sky Buses would have come to a stop over sand bag protected tracks. As some people thought. the speed of 50 kmph over the 100m radius curve, could have caused the Sky Bus coach to hit the central column, is not correct- even at that speed sufficient clearances are provided not to touch the column. But the coach did hit the column. The facts indicate presence grease on top of the rails in the approach and on the curve portion, which was not expected to be present, as the same was removed and cleaned 10 days earlier by the Konkan Railway engineers. The light drizzle coupled with the presence of soft grease , and the curving effect created a combination of factors, causing the Sky Bus to go into a voilent skid behaviour, generating excessive forces in the suspended mass making the coach hit first the column.The behaviour is similar to what one experiences when one steers a truck on a road covered with oil/grease and water, causing severe veering and loss of control of the moving truck.
Lessons are that first, technology having commercial implications should be experimented in a more secure and protected locale, preventing any access to unauthorised persons. We have now totally barricaded area and very strict security screening introduced in experimental area.
Secondly, Sky Bus final design is free from climatic conditions, as the track is protected in a closed box of concrete, unlike the test track where we have used open rib-structure for facility to observe the bogie movements. So rains etc will not affect the Sky Bus in commercial working.
Thirdly, instead of using track with curve of 100m radius, which requires application of grease to the running flange, to reduce curve resistance, for commercial application , we can as well give a 20 m radius of turning using our traverser technology, thus avoiding the sharp track curve. This will make Sky Bus better and safer.
Fourthly on a positive front, ther has been no derailment even at such high speed of travel on a curve fit for 20 kmph only even after impact forces because of hitting an obstruction- normal railway system would have had a derailment for much lower level of obstructions. Further all suspenders held very well and no coach fell down. So unlike in a railway system where hell breaks lose once an obstruction is hit by the train, by losing control capsizing dangerously & killing people, the Sky Bus remained positively attached and all persons inside the coach came out safe, except for the one who fell out of coach.On the front of disaster management, evacuation was complete and medical help was given within 20 minutes of accident.

When other 'tested' mass transit systems are available, what made you conceptualise and design the Sky Bus, for which you also hold a US patent.?

It was in the year 1989, that I presented a paper for a futuristic urban transport system, which should be safer and conserve on the precious urban space. Urbanisation will increase in years to come and the roads and circulating areas remaining virtually invariant in a city, the population will keep on increasing. Road based solutions are bound to fail both on account of relatively low throughpu and with diminishing returns as every attempt to increase vehicles will further clog the roads and congestion leads with low speeds increase pollution. It is difficult to lay railway corridors in built up cities and the railway is not able to follow the roads any way.Elevated and under ground solutions suffer from the basic safety concerns of derailments and capsizing with loss of life and do need a technology improvement. The Sky Bus , by turning the existing railway system up side down, taking the wheels and underframe above and suspending the coaches below, changed the dynamics- now the center of gravity is lowered to the rail level, improving flexibility of rail based system to follow existing roads, and by operating in smaller modules of 20 m long twin coach system forming a train carrying 300 persons normal ( if required can carry 430 nos at current metro standard quality), The design parameters thus make it more economical in structures, stations ( now lower by 2 m as compared to elevated metro), and provides service every minute which cannot be done by the current systems, by avoiding the long turn round times on points and crossings.The economy achieved by the engineering design translates into benefit for commuter- and solution is again with least technology risk, because each element of technology used is time tested well proven in metros all over the world.
Questions are being raised about the viability of the Sky Bus and its unsuitability for Indian conditions. Is the perception correct?
Again, it is pathetic attempt by the lobbies sticking to the 3 to 4 times expensive technologies of yester years, who make such vague unsubstantiated comments. Independent financial evaluation reports and actual construction costs duly verified at test track at Madgaon, clearly indicate that within 7 years of operation , the Sky Bus operator can recover his capital, and the charges collected from floating poulation to the city can meet the operation,depreciation and profit margins- thus making the travel for local residents virtually free after 7 years, for life time, at one time charge of Rs 15000! Sky Bus is not just for India, it will be a gift to to all cities in the world from us to cause a paradigm shift to city’s transport scene. Sky Bus technology alone can eliminate truck movements in a city, by delivering either containers or the truck itself to within a kilometer of it’s destination. No other metro technology can do this.

When do you expect to complete current trials and make the system ready for use and where?

The trials are to be restarted by 15th Dec 2004, and I personally will try my best to complete safety certification by 31st Dec or before I leave my Indian Railway Service of Engineers on super-annuation by 31st Jan 2005. This will be done at Madgaon, Goa, where Konkan Railway has constructed the 1.6 km test track, the World’s First at a cost of Rs 50 cr as approved by the Ministry of Railways.

Elsewhere you have spoken of bureaucratic mindset as coming in the way of implementing cost effective breakthroughs, especially the Sky Bus. Please elaborate?

We have systems manned by persons to govern- decisions will always be done with due “government prudence” – concentrating on pure expenditure control. This mental conditioning makes the mind sets of bureaucrats, for no fault of any individual, to abhor innovation and risk of experiment with some probability of failure. Only Scientists have the mind set for experimentation and see the result not in terms of failure or success, but as a knowledge gain laying steps for further progress of humanity. The Sky Bus, that is why could be understood in better manner by scientists. I only wish our engineers think like engineers and lean towards scientific inquiry and learning to develop technologies for improving human life more cost-effectively, rather than bureaucratize themselves, confusing further efficient project management as technical expertise, to uphold outdated technologies in the name of having been adopted else where, to the detriment of our own initiative to contribute to the world.

As an inventor and innovator with 17 patents, including the Sky Bus and Anti-Collision Devices to your credit, valued at Rs 10,000 crore, which have been assigned to the President of India, what do you think is the solution to the staggering urban transport muddle.

It is not mere problem of transporting people in a city, which seems to be the prime concern today for many, forgetting that goods, municipal services also need simultaneous attention to address the improvement in quality of life. A holistic solution is provided by the Sky Bus technology : .1) Provides air-conditoned travel to all at affordable price for common man without robbing your grand children of their wealth 2) Decongests roads of trucks plying and thus reduces further pollution levels- which current solutions of metros cannot achieve even though costing us more than 3 to 4 times 3) Preserves precious urban space and further adds to usable urban space by way of creating a Sky top space all along the route of 9.5 m width, which can be used for Cyber Cafes/ markets/ jogging tracks/ bicycle paths, hanging gardens – gives opportunity of space for urban thinkers to improve avenues to better urban life 4) Sky Bus during nights can automat the cleaning of the primary roads where it is running and wash too . as well as collect and deliver all the containerized garbage to garbage dumps automatically and hygienically. This is a quite a serious problem that municipal administrations are facing for major cities. In my opinion the muddle is in our minds not to see the right solution , just because it is from our country. It is time we liberate ourselves to launch our country in to the new millennium as a leader to provide cost effective technological solutions.

Sudip Talukdar
Dated: December 7, 004

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