Konkan Railway’s Sky Bus Technology was dumped on safety considerations while Mumbai Mono Rail is getting delayed due to safety concerns. Even, imported technology Monorail that costs 70% more than the Skybus, is being given preference. Why are we so defeatists towards not adopting Indian innovations?
Engineering innovations such as Konkan Railway’s Sky Bus Technology, costing one-fourth the elevated Metro Rail, is dumped on safety considerations while safety concerns are causing delays in commissioning of Mumbai Monorail. The imported monorail technology, which costs 70% more than the Sky Bus, has been given preference (over Skybus) despite its capacity being barely one seventh of the indigenous Sky Bus capacity. Why are we so defeatists towards not adopting Indian innovations?
Newspapers reports on 6 September 2013...
“Monorail likely to be delayed further, contractors pulled up” … Hindustan Times
“Chembur Wadala Monorail Unsafe: MMRDA Officials” … DNA
“MMRDA raises doubts over monorail safety” … Times of India
“Madan (Metropolitan Commissioner, MMRDA) spoke about the lack of safety on the monorail while referring to last month’s incident of a panel door falling. Additional commissioner Bhide said that since the monorail was in its first phase (from Chembur to Wadala), there was ample space below, luckily, no one was hurt. The case would have been different if it was in phase 2 – from Wadala to Saata Rasta – where the stretch below is narrow and crowded.” … Mumbai Mirror
Scene: end September 2004, location Madgao, Goa.
Venue: Test track of Sky Bus Metro, the innovative mode of transport of Konkan Railway.
“Onboard staff has accidental fall from 6m height from the Sky Bus on a test run, meets fatal end.”
This was the news headline at that time. Further testing was totally halted by the investigating agency. The innovator and team leader is not given extension to bring the Sky Bus Technology to logical conclusion. Ministry of Urban Development appoint an expert’s committee comprising of engineers, some from the Railways, including commissioner of Railway Safety and some from Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, competitors to Sky Bus technology, to see the viability of Sky Bus Metro. The expert’s committee was chaired by Prof Indiresan, former director of IIT Madras. It recommended to the Ministry to invest Rs50 crore to improve certain aspects of design over a period of two years. About Rs50 crore were already spent by industry partners with Konkan Railway for the test track and an additional Rs50 crore would have been very useful in terms of getting the Sky Bus Technology off the ground had Prof Indiresan recommended that the full amount be made available for spending immediately, with outer limit of two years. This kind of recommendation would have helped in giving Indian innovators the signal that government of India is serious in research and development (R&D) that would benefit our nation through indigenous innovations.
The author even spent some time with Dr Mashelkar, the then director general of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) discussing the Sky Bus innovation of B Rajaram, the then managing director of Konkan Railway. CSIR was sitting with funds as much as Rs5,000 crore for R&D then. Perhaps Dr Mashelkar, the advocate of “Gandhian Engineering—Maximum benefit to Maximum number of people with minimum expenditure” failed to recognize such an innovation could compete with the monorail and Metro Rails, with some additional benefits thrown in. Perhaps CSIR did not cover “technological innovations”.
There have been fatal accidents in the construction phase of Mumbai Metro as well as Mumbai monorail. Falling of the door of a monorail could have happened in habited areas of the route and would have had, on its record, some deaths too. It was just a coincidence that it fell on an empty road.
Having stopped further testing for three months in the case of Sky Bus, should not the government have stopped construction or testing of monorail or Metro Rail? Delhi Metro too has had its share of accidents, and not to speak of 3,600 people losing their lives every year on the suburban railway in Mumbai.
Are we not self-defeatists that we allowed the Konkan Railways team of enthusiastic and energised engineers disperse to their respective parent railways, and that we allowed the test track and the rail coach lie idle in Goa to get rusted?
While about 3,600 people get killed every year on the Mumbai suburban railway system, mainly due to heavy overload, the government does not seem to care to work on something like Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), which will cost less than one twentieth of Metro Rail and allow Indian geniuses to develop to serve.
With current prices and sliding rupee-US dollar parity, comparative statements for various modes of mass transits are presented. It is obvious that BRTS should be priority one followed by the Sky Bus. Construction time is also indicated, considering that a highly stressed Mumbai transport infrastructure will not be significantly further stretched during construction phase. Mumbai has to be functional even as infrastructure projects are taken up for implementation.
The figures shown above may appear to be exaggerated. If there are enough challenging queries on this article, the Author is willing to put the computations in the public domain. Let us be practical, pragmatic in developing our technologies and use them to make “Gandhian Engineering” a reality. Let us not be defeatists.
is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). He is member of the committee constituted by the Bombay High Court for making the Railways, especially the suburban railways system friendly towards Persons with Disability (2011- ). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted at [email protected]