BMTC proposal to lease 500 electric buses on backburner

BMTC proposal to lease 500 electric buses on backburner

The government feels the electric bus manufacturer's tender was a raw deal. DH file photo

The government's scepticism about the BMTC's electric bus tender, which it has described as a raw deal, has put the plan to lease 500 more such buses under a state-funded programme in abeyance.

In its last budget, the Siddaramaiah government had assured financial aid to the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) for leasing 1,000 buses. Following the "cut-price" offer made by a private company for a previous tender to lease 80 electric buses under a Central scheme, the BMTC board had cleared a proposal to lease 500 such buses three months ago.

However, transport minister D C Thammanna has described the lease price quoted by the private player (Rs 24 per km for non-AC bus and Rs 37.45 per km for AC bus) as a "raw deal" that needs to be renegotiated.

With the corporation set to scrap 1,298 buses that have clocked over 8.5 lakh km by the end of 2018, the delay in the addition of new buses is likely to hit its operations.

BMTC managing director V Ponnuraj, who had earlier described the deal as a cost-effective method in testing new technology, refused to comment on the delay in leasing the buses.

But sources said it is unlikely that the BMTC would get a better offer. "We have got the best offer (for leasing 80 buses) at a time when Telangana and Maharashtra are ready to pay more. The tender documents for 500 buses were prepared after we realised that leasing buses will save us more than Rs 10 per km, besides reducing pollution. It was cleared by the previous board three months ago and sent to the minister for approval," a source told DH.

The minister had previously confirmed that he was holding the files in order to "ensure that BMTC gets the best offer". To a question on the delay in the introduction of electric buses at a time when soaring fuel prices were causing losses, he said rushing through the deal would set a "wrong precedent" and suggested that the corporation can buy buses instead of leasing them.

"The electric bus has no manufacturer in India and BMTC doesn't have any experience in handling that technology. The lease model was not only cheap, but also a strategic move considering that the private operator will take all the risks," a source in the government said.

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