"Straddling Bus" Labelled a "Scam" by Chinese Media

By James O Malley on at

Perhaps it is too good to be true after all: The Chinese "straddling bus" which wowed us last week might not be as brilliant as it looks according to new reports in Chinese state media.

First off, Jalopnik have picked up on reports that the quality of engineering in the prototype Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) does not inspire confidence. It appears poor constructed and bizarrely appears to feature an air conditioning unit designed for home usage embedded inside it. There have also been suggestions that while it looks hi-tech, the underlying technology that enables it to move is just a repackaged gantry crane, as seen in shipping container terminals for decades.

So why so crappy? Bizarrely, the Chinese Globe Times is claiming that the chief designer, Song Youzhou, only has a Primary School level of education - so by implication might not be the visionary engineer we hoped he was.

This isn't where the weirdness ends. According to Shanghaiist allegations have been made that the bus is part of a financial scam. It is funded by "Peer to Peer lending" - that's where an online platform is used to match lenders with borrowers. Such platforms have been hugely controversial in China, and the government is now cracking down on them after last year one cheated 900,000 investors out of almost £6bn. The speculation is that the TEB is doing something similar.

The reports follow some persistent criticisms of the fundamental plans for the TEB: How will it turn corners? Why is the ground clearance so low? And then there's the big philosophical question: It runs over roads but sticks to tracks either side, so isn't it more of a train than a bus?

Even if it isn't a scam, it certainly sounds like there is a long road ahead. [Shanghaiist]