The Great Elevated Bus Scam

Automologist MAC brings us an update on the whacky yet out-of-the-box idea to get around (or rather above) traffic congestion.

Back in May 2016, we wrote the headline: “Shanghai plans elevated bus service, what could possibly go wrong?”. The plan was to create a bus service that could carry 1,200 passengers per vehicle and would glide above the city’s otherwise congested streets, leaving the cars still stranded in the congestion below. The Transit Elevated Bus, or TEB, was supposed to revolutionise city commuting for a fraction of the price of a subway system.

The futuristic idea caught the public’s imagination but we were somewhat sceptical about the safety of the project and of course the ability of the engineers to actually manufacture such a big and wide beastie that could actually get around the corners. We also doubted that it would be able to get under footbridges or whether it would be strong enough to hold 1,200 passengers.

Well, it would seem that we were right about the feasibility of the project, but not from an engineering standpoint—Chinese police have arrested 32 of the company’s employees for illegal fund-raising. It turns out the whole plan was an investment scam with no real plan to manifest the project. Amongst those arrested and charged with fraud was the 47-year-old CEO, Bai Zhi Ming, who just happened to also be the founder of peer-to-peer financing company Kai Lai Asset Management.

Authorities began to smell the scam when investors were promised a guaranteed 12% return on their investment. There were also doubts if the vehicle had gained approval by the authorities, particularly of Qin Huang Doa, a city in Hebei province, where the TEB was based and which reportedly invested US$1.5 billion into the project. The test site that was so grandly unveiled all those months ago (read: Elevated Bus Takes Flight) has now been demolished and I for one am a little sad that such a whacky idea has proven to be just another scam.

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