And it isn't actually a bus, either
We were all getting so excited about the Elevated Transit Bus (ETB), but according Chinese state media, we may have been getting ahead of ourselves.
The ETB straddles two lanes of road, travelling above the traffic. It sounds brilliant, and like a perfect solution to cutting congestion, but there are issues. It only provides 2.1 metres (about 6 feet, 10 inches) of clearance, which means anything taller than a Range Rover won't fit. And it doesn’t look like it can turn even the slightest of corners. Then there’s the matter of how traffic enters and exits the lanes the ETB uses, and how to ensure they don’t stray out of position and into the path of the bus.
Though calling it a "bus" may be wide of the mark, as it runs on rails, which technically makes it a tram.
Regardless of these issues, a demonstration of the first prototype staged last week by builder Jinchuang Corp., which left most who saw it mightily impressed. But questions are now being asked about the legitimacy of the whole project.
Firstly, there's the test, which wasn’t entirely what it appeared. It was staged on a 300-metre stretch of closed road and not an active highway, a point that was noted in some media coverage but one that was easily missed. Plus, according to Chinese state media, officials in the city of Qinhuangdao, where the test was held, didn’t actually know about it. However, TEB Technology Development Company’s chief engineer later claimed the test was only "internal," not the large-scale event it appeared to be in the coverage of it.
Moreover, images published by Car News China appear to show that the ETB ran on rubber tires, and that it was guided by gutters, not rails.
Then there’s the question of funding. According to Road & Track, two Chinese state media outlets are claiming that the whole ETB project is actually scam. Money has been raised through peer-to-peer lending, in which an online company matches investors with borrowers. One such system was closed down by the Chinese government earlier this year, having been dubbed a "Ponzi scheme."
The ETB is just one in a very long line of ambitious urban transport solutions that have been touted over the decades. There are clearly engineering and infrastructure issues to overcome; add in alleged financial irregularities putting the Chinese government on the company's case, and the future may be tricky for the ETB.