17
Jul

2012

What Can We Learn From The Pakistan Cable Car Accident?

Post by Steven Dale

Vernacular, improvised ropeways in places like Pakistan, India and Nepal are common. They are often over-crowded, poorly built and maintained and too-often are involved in accidents.

As we’ve demonstrated before, cable cars, ropeways and gondolas are amongst the safest transit technologies in the world.

But that doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen.

A few days ago in Pakistan a cable car system snapped, sending 8 passengers plunging into the swollen Indus river below. No survivors were reported.

A similar incident occurred last year in Nepal.

But before everyone jumps to conclusions and assumes this is typical of the technology, please remember that both of these systems were improvised, vernacular installations. These human-powered systems tend to be hand-built by locals lacking the proper resources to build effective installations. Incidents such as these are often characterized by low-capacity vehicles overloaded with passengers straining the system’s upper limits past its breaking point.

Yes cable transit systems are safe – but only when designed, built and installed by qualified, knowledgeable professionals with access to the proper tools and resources. That stands for virtually any product.

The reality is this: These types of systems exist in plenty throughout the developing world. In regions where topography reigns supreme and money is scarce, these improvised are going to flourish. In many ways, that’s a good thing. Here are people using their own know-how and limited funds to solve very clear mobility challenges. We can’t fault them for improving their lot.

What we can do, however, is assist them in their endeavours. So while no one doubts the tragedy of these incidents, they do point to clear opportunities for the cable industry to both do some good and increase their market presence:

1. Most major corporations make donations to some charity or another. How about an in-kind donation of a slimmed down, professionally-designed system that can stand up to the rigours of these environments?

2. Development money in these parts of the world is a-plenty. Why not create a low-cost ropeway system specifically designed for this market?

3. A combo approach of both one and two: How about partnering with local development agencies and offer in-kind donations of ropeway services to check on these various installations, report on their safety and rehabilitate them where necessary?

4. How about setting up ropeway engineering schools and programs in these isolated areas to educate the locals about proper techniques and providing the necessary resources to realize those goals? Or take it one step further and build small branch-offices to do just that but within an existing corporate structure?

As the cable industry becomes more-and-more a player in the city building and urban transport markets, corporate social responsibility (CSR) will necessarily become a key part of their marketing strategy. And that’s not going to be a choice.

The major ropeway manufacturers will be compelled by market forces to engage with communities such as these in unique and innovative ways simply because the current city building industry privileges those companies that do. City building, whether we wish to admit it or not, is a pay-to-play game.

So rather than run some bland, run-of-the mill CSR endeavour, how about spotting opportunities to get a little dirty and actually do some good?

This is clearly one such opportunity.



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Comments

  1. Matt the Engineer
    I like #2. I'm picturing a fairly simple device including an electric motor, a solar panel, and a battery that can carry people back and forth across a fixed ropeway. You could design it to be tough to overload. The trick would be in finding a way to make sure the cable is well designed, installed, and maintained. Maybe do #3 after all - we'll sell you these devices at a low cost only if we can certify they're installed safely, and we'll bring someone by occasionally to maintain it. It would be tricky to get the balance right - make this too expensive and locals will copy the technology but build it themselves (dangerously).
  2. Let's face the reality - its not a ropeway question , its the LIFE ITSELF to be dangerous particularly in developed countries. Here we have the news of 8 dead in pakistan , but how many people in the same area drowns every year fording rivers? My mountains are disseminated of tombstones and memorial plates mourning the loss of lives in forest works, cattle and ovine herding, even cutting grass too near the cliff... some also on or around ropeways; but we risk to lose the global view - its good to improve and makes safer ANYTHING , but a global , long-term approach is more useful.
  3. Sorry - should mean "un-developed" countries