32 people have been arrested in China this week for alleged illegal fundraising connected to the controversial “traffic-straddling bus” project scrapped last month.
The idiosyncratic “bus” project– technically a light rail system – first caused substantial (albeit sceptical) buzz after its first and only test run in August last year in Qinhuangdao.
The TEB-1, or Transit Elevated Bus, a 22-metre-long and 5-metre-high vehicle running along special tracks on both sides of the road, was designed to suspend passengers above two lanes of traffic passing underneath.
However, doubts about the project’s viability soon emerged, with critics pointing out the various technical difficulties posed by the design scheme and overall concept of the “traffic-straddling bus”, especially the seeming inability of trucks and other tall vehicles to pass underneath bus floor suspended little more than 2 metres above the ground, as well as general safety hazards posed to both drivers on the road and passengers of the bus.
“Cars under the belly of the big vehicle would have no way to change direction, and even changing lanes would be dangerous,” The Beijing News declared last year.
Allegations soon arose that Bai Zhiming, the man in charge of the Transit Elevated Bus company responsible for the project and the founder of Huaying Kailai Asset Management, a peer-to-peer financing company, was using the sensational transport venture to lure investors into a scam.
Last month Chinese media reported that the Qinhuangdao test site had been demolished. And now Zhiming, along with 31 other Huaying Kailai employees have been placed under arrest, and an investigation into illegal fundraising is now reportedly underway. The police have issued a statement stating that they are also working to recover assets for investors that had poured money into the scheme.