Anil Kumar Sastry
Concept technically feasible, says inspecting agency
Flaw causing 2004 mishap rectified Modified system successfully tested
BANGALORE: Two years after the September 2004 mishap that derailed it, the Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd. (KRCL) is all set to put the sky bus metro project back on track.
One person was killed in the accident when the sky coaches hit piers of the test track at Madgaon in Goa. The KRCL had attributed the cause to failure of brakes due to greased and wet tracks.
KRCL Managing Director K.K. Gokhale told The Hindu over telephone that the Urban Development Ministry has recently authorised the Commissioner for Railway Safety to examine and certify the project.
TUV-Germany, an international inspecting agency, had already said that the concept was technically feasible, he added.
In the meantime, KRCL has invited bids from operators to run the sky bus. Upon finalising the financial bids, the selected parties would be invited to sign the Technology Licence Agreement for various routes on Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis in Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bangalore, Mangalore and Puducherry. Dr. Gokhale said the Corporation has received many inquiries.
KRCL officials say the flaw that reportedly caused the accident has been rectified by the construction of a concrete roofing that will shield the track from rain. The Corporation switched over to manual drive from auto drive for better control of the sky bus besides implementing certain other safety measures suggested by an inquiry committee. Thereafter, KRCL has successfully tested the modified system.
Sky bus metro, one of the innovations of the then KRCL Managing Director, B. Rajaram, was granted a U.S. patent in 2004. It is a modified railway system, where light weight coaches, suspended from overhead rails, move along rail guides. The system uses pre-fabricated structures for easy construction in busy urban areas without disturbing the existing traffic. The coaches travel about 10 metres above the road level and carry up to 300 persons in each at a maximum speed of 100 km a hour.
Dr. Gokhale said KRCL proposed a licence fee of Rs. 5 crore per km for route length lesser than 10 km. For over 10 km, the fee could be negotiated, he added. The cost of the metro per km, including the rolling stock, could be around Rs. 60 crore.
According Mr. Rajaram, while the cost, including train control and rolling stock to carry 40,000 passengers an hour is Rs. 3,000 crore for an underground metro, it is Rs. 1,200 crore for an elevated metro and only Rs. 500 crore for the sky bus. Furthermore, the utilisation is 45-50 per cent in underground and elevated metro systems whereas in sky bus metro, it is projected at 65-75 per cent.
Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa recently promised to provide Rs. 1 crore to KRCL to conduct a feasibility study of the sky bus metro for Mangalore city.