Plan to introduce electric buses in AP deferred

On the directions of the state Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, the APSRTC cancelled its tender floated in September seeking to deploy the electric buses.

The Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) has deferred its move to introduce 350 electric buses in the first phase in its fleet, Transport Minister Perni Venkataramaiah said on Tuesday.

On the directions of the state Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, the APSRTC cancelled its tender floated in September seeking to deploy the electric buses.

The air-conditioned buses were to be deployed on Gross Cost Contract (GCC) basis, under Phase-II of Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid)ElectricVehicles (FAME) in India scheme. The tender would be floated afresh and referred to the Judicial Preview Commission for scrutiny as per the Andhra Pradesh Infrastructure (Transparency through Judicial Preview) Act, 2019, Venkataramaiah said.

The Chief Minister has now asked us to put off the proposal because the costs are working out to be high. The Chief Minister also asked us to buy 1,000 new buses to replace the aged fleet, the Minister told PTI.

Initially, the chief minister wanted to introduce 1,000 electric buses at one-go but later reduced the number to 350 because of 'logistical reasons', official sources said.

Just days before the tender was to be opened, the Chief Minister wanted it to be referred to the Judicial Preview Commission for scrutiny as per the Andhra Pradesh Infrastructure (Transparency through Judicial Preview) Act, 2019, following allegations that the government was seeking to favour a particular company in awarding the contract. The RTC wanted to hire 350 electric buses for a period of 12 years, duly availing the demand incentive from the Union Heavy Industry department.

It had planned to deploy 50 buses on the Tirupati- Tirumala ghat route, 100 each in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam and 50 each in Kakinada and Amaravati, to be run on various routes in the respective regions. The financial bids were to be opened on November 4 and reverse tendering be conducted on November 6, as per the original schedule.

RTC and the Transport Department officials had cautioned months ago when the proposal of electric buses was made that it would not be practical to deploy 1,000 buses. "There are only seven manufacturing companies that are active in making electric buses in the country. Of the order for over 650 buses they received from various states in the last one-and-a-half year, they could deliver only about half the number so far," a top official said.

Some of the buses introduced in major cities were said to be down due to operational hiccups.

Moreover, the cost of each bus was over Rs 2 crore while the charging infrastructure was non-existent, he said. "We need to spend at least Rs 200 crore to create charging infrastructure for the buses. That's quite a burden given the precarious financial position of the corporation," the official added. Seeing reason, the Chief Minister finally decided to give up the electric buses idea for now.

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