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The Konkan railway skybus - backgrounder

After a succesful test run, the Konkan Railway's Skybus ran straight into an accident. Will the Skybus recover and fulfil its promise?

Also read related story: Skybus teething troubles





September 25, 2004 was a sad day for B Rajaram of Konkan railways. During a test run of his dream project - the Skybus - there was an accident, the skybus oversped and hit a pole. One died and two others were injured.

The mishap definitely threw Konkan Railway on the backfoot. After all, this happened only a few days after a throng of journalists had witnessed the succesful test run of the Skybus. That moment of triumph for Konkan Railway was quickly followed by this accident. 

"The accident most likely occurred because the bogey washeading at a higher speed than it should have. Also it oscillated to a higher degree than we had expected," KRCL MD B rajaram, told PTI. The Skybus does not really need a driver or an operator. When the Skybus approaches a station, it is supposed to slow down by itself and stop. The brake is only for emergency usage. In this case, the Skybus did not slow down, and the Control room threw the emergency brake which resulted in the accident. TThe accident happened on the 1.6 km test track prepared for the Skybus.

At least Konkan Railway can take solace from the fact that the Skybus did not derail and remained suspended. Safety was one of the biggest issues raised against the Skybus, and Rajaram had fought hard against it. 

The safety certification of the Skybus was to have been completed by September 30. Whether the accident would lead to any dealy is not know currently. Lalu Prasad Yadav is to dedicate the Skybus project to the nation on October 15 2004. 

If you do not know what the Skybus exactly does, here is extract from the Businessworld magazine: "The Skybus is essentially a fusion of a bus and a train. Its carriage looks like a bus, but it runs like a train, and instead of the compartments running on rails, they hang below the rails and slide 10 metres above the regular road traffic." The Skybus differs from the other suspended railway systems in that it is the only one to be suspended from regular railway tracks. Konkan Railway has been several expressions of interest from around the world and some cities in India. Mumbai was one major city which clearly said a 'no' to this new technology - the state government did not want to go for an untested technology. We do not know if the Konkan Railway Skybus would end up as a major advance, or one of those also-ran technologies. However, if it does well, Mumbai would be the loser. After all, Virgin's new railway line too ran into problems after being flagged off by Tony Blair and had to be stopped. But nobody believes that in the end, it will be a failure. There is hope for Konkan Railway, after all.



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