The APSRTC has requested the government of Andhra Pradesh to operate 150 electric buses between Tirumala and Tirupati route. The idea was proposed by an expert committee charged with the task of suggesting possible ways to replace the RTC fleet with eco-friendly options. After a three month study on the subject, the committee submitted its report to chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy recommended the replacement of diesel buses with electric buses.
The Solar Power Scope
In its report, the committee highlighted the scope of solar power and ways of tapping its benefits. The plan was to install roof-top solar panels in and around the RTC complex for charging buses. Tirumala is given the priority for electric bus operation through the setting up of charging stations at Tirumala and Alipiri.
To procure electric buses, the government is advised to adopt the reverse tendering process. A high committee should be constituted that meets once every three months to review the progress of the plan. The establishment of an e-Bus Business Development Division in the RTC is also proposed to minimize the irregularities.
The Project Phases
The whole project is divided into three phases. The first phase is focused on transforming the hill shrine into a ‘zero carbon emission zone’ by introducing 150 electric buses between Tirupati and Tirumala. In the second phase, 350 electric buses will be added to the inventory of APSRTC. During the third phase, 100 electric buses will be operated in Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada.
To get approval for 1000 electric buses, a report was sent to the Union government’s Heavy Industries Department. It was done under the incentive of the RTC and FAME – II. As fuel prices are at an all-time high while the battery cost for electric buses is low, this move is suggested to save a lot of money in the coming future.
However, the transport officials cautioned that the deployment of 1000 electric buses will not be practical. Moreover, there are only 7 manufacturing companies in the country that build electric buses. And they have received an order of over 650 electric buses from various states in the last one and a half years. The companies are not in the position to supply a large order and can only deliver half of the numbers. Following these logistic reasons, the number of buses in the proposal was reduced to 350 from the initial 1000.
New Bus Distribution
As per the change in plan, the APSRTC planned to run 50 buses on the Tirupati-Tirumala ghat route, 50 buses each in Amaravati and Kakinada, and 100 buses each in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam. The buses will run on the popular routes of these regions.
Allegations on the Government
After the changes in the project, the government was accused of seeking to favor a particular company in awarding the tender. In response to these allegations, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh referred the files for scrutiny by the Judicial Preview Commission under the Andhra Pradesh Infrastructure (Transparency through Judicial Preview) Act, 2019.
The Judicial Preview Committee objected to the tender procedure because of the Gross Cost Control structural method used for its formation. It was remarked that introducing electric buses in the APSRTC fleet is not necessary since the air quality of Andhra Pradesh complies with standard measures. Instead, the bus corporation should buy diesel bus models with less harmful emissions.
Chief Minister Orders
Following the judicial preview, the chief minister issued fresh orders to drop the plan entirely just when the tender was supposed to be open. The reason given for this order was the high cost of working out of the plan. Each bus was calculated to cost approximately INR 2 crores. An additional INR 200 crores were needed to create charging infrastructure for the electric bus. This will be quite a burden on the financial resources of the corporation.
Instead, now the chief minister has asked the transport corporation officials to purchase 1000 new buses to replace the aging fleet of APSRTC, as reported by the Transport Minister Perni Venkataramaiah (Nani).
The Effect on Common People
The shift towards electric buses would have modernized the APSRTC bus inventory drastically. The rapid increase of private vehicles on the road is mainly due to the lack of good transport facilities in the state. These vehicles create a lot of traffic and contribute to air and noise pollution as well. Electric buses are good for the environment because of their use of non-fossil fuel for power. But this looks like a distant dream for the people of Andhra Pradesh for now. The high cost and other political reasons have become a big obstacle in the path of modernization of buses. However, if nothing else, the people would see at least a thousand new buses of APSRTC on the road in near future. And that is reason enough to consider bus transportation for your inter and intra-state travel needs.
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