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Traffic Solution Project In China Appears To Be An Investment Scam


In China, a futuristic new kind of urban transport that was intended to beat traffic jams appears now to have gone off the rails. NPR's Anthony Kuhn has the story from Beijing.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: The contraption looks a bit like a catamaran on rails or a bus that straddles traffic, with a cabin for passengers about seven feet off the ground. Right off the bat, experts had doubts about the vehicle, dubbed the Transit Elevated Bus. How would it deal with curves, for example, or corners, pedestrian overpasses or tall trucks? Shingling is an urban transport expert at Tongji University in Shanghai.

SHEN GANG: (Speaking Chinese).

KUHN: "The elevated bus would just get stuck in traffic and make things even worse," he says, "the idea was absurd, childish." Last week, police arrested the man who bought the patents for the bus, 47-year-old Bai Zhiming and 31 employees of his online lending company. State media say investors put up hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the project. Police say they're now trying to recover those funds. Yang Tao, an expert at the Urban Transport Planning and Design Institute in the eastern city of Nanjing, says that the scam was based on an impractical idea.

TAO YANG: (Speaking Chinese).

KUHN: "New kinds of vehicles won't solve the problem," he says, "it has to be resolved through balancing supply and demand for transportation." In other words, he says, you've got to try to fix the gridlock itself, not just sail over it. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
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