MIT auditorium
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An Indian Railways engineer Ashwani Kumar Upadhyaya's concept of a Caterpillar train recently won a global contest that was organised by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Centre for Collective Intelligence. 

The idea won both the popular choice and the judges' choice categories from among 500 entries from across the world at the Climate CoLab contest.

The 43-year-old engineer is a 1997-batch officer of the Indian Railway Traffic Service and is pursuing PhD in MIT. Earlier, he was posted at Centre for Railway Information Systems in New Delhi. 

The Caterpillar Train or C-train is a network of lightweight, elevated trains that can run at 100 kms an hour throughout the city. It can reach residential areas with even a five-metre road. The train would be supported on poles that arch and there would be seating for just 20 people. The passengers will be able to choose their destination. 

"The strength of the concept is its simplicity and its practicability. Some ideas are very good on paper, but not practicable. I guess we won because ours was both," Upadhyaya told The Indian Express.

The trains will have wheels above and below the coach -- that is where the name comes from -- and would be able to run both above and below the track. The trains will be stacked vertically at the depot taking less space than bus depots and metro depots. The idea was dubbed as the "internet of urban transport" as it can reach up to 1 km of residential areas.  

Currently, all urban mass transit systems are developed on the hub-and-spoke concept — the transport system is the hub and users have to travel from various parts of the city and converge there to use it. But the C-Train goes wherever there is at least a five-metre road," he said.

Upadhyaya and his collaborator, Emil Jacob, a Romanian-American, answered many difficult questions about the practicality of the C-train. They are set to present their innovation before academicians and town planners at a global conference in MIT in September.