China's ambitious 'straddling bus' project fails to get off the ground

BEIJING - China's ambitious "straddling bus" project - a futuristic-looking vehicle that cruises above cars - has been canned.

The test site of the elevated bus, touted as the solution to China's notorious traffic jams, was being dismantled and will be demolished by the end of the month, according to the state-run China News Service.

Designed to allow cars to pass underneath and maintain traffic flow, the 22m-long Traffic Elevated Bus (TEB) debuted to much fanfare last August.

Following its launch, the bus had undergone trial runs on its 300m test track in the seaside city of Qinhuangdao in Hebei province.

But a report by the Shanghaiist website last December said the test runs ceased just days after they were launched. The China News Service said the road tests ended in October.

 

Since December, the vehicle had been sitting abandoned in the middle of a main road in Qinhuangdao, leaving residents unhappy because it was blocking three lanes of traffic.

The project has been struggling to get off the ground, plagued by questions about its technical feasibility and amid controversy that the company developing the TEB had misled investors.

While the TEB is creatively designed, critics point out that only vehicles 2.1m and shorter can pass underneath. Most Chinese roads, however, allow vehicles up to 4.2m tall to travel on them.

The bus may also be too heavy for roads in China, which may have sinkholes appearing, critics say. In an emergency, passengers will somehow have to evacuate a carriage two storeys off the ground.

According to the China News Service, the district government has refused the developer's appeal to extend its land contract that is set to expire in July and the contract's renewal has also been rejected.

The report also said that the disused vehicle's power connection has been cut off, and the test rails are being removed.

The government has yet to publicly announce its decision.