Tourism fraternity upbeat over amphibious bus project

A bus can be made amphibious by altering the wheel hub and providing it a water-proof hull and a propeller.   | Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO FOR REPRESENTATIONAL PURPOSE ONLY

Members of the tourism fraternity have cheered the announcement in the recent State Budget of introducing amphibious buses in Kochi, Kollam, and Thalassery, hoping that the unique venture would re-ignite interest among guests in Kerala, whose tourism sector is neck-deep in crisis owing to the pandemic.

Amphibious buses will bring in tourists who want to avoid roads and instead relish the State’s famed backwaters and picturesque waterfront. In Kochi, services can be operated from Marine Drive, which has ample space to build a berthing ramp, to heritage locales like Fort Kochi, where a ramp can be built near the ro-ro terminal, said S. Vijayakumar, Secretary, Ernakulam District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC).

“It will also be a definite hit with high-end tourists of cruise ships that call at the Kochi International Cruise Terminal at dawn and leave at dusk. Many of these tourists who opt for heritage tour of the city can save considerable time if they opt for amphibious buses which can operate on both land and the backwaters and are hence called ‘duck buses’. They could even take guests all the way up to the international airport, in case they wanted to fly back to their country after a local tour,” he added.

Having a low draft, the buses can operate through placid waters to Muziris, Kadamakudy, Poothotta, and even Vaikom. Circular tour routes too can be identified, so that they operate as a hop on-hop off service, which people can board from any point en route. The DTPC could well act as a facilitating agency, by fixing ticket fare and helping market the service. The government could incentivise the service or offer viability gap funding, so that firms which enjoy good credibility come forward to procure amphibious vessels and operate them. Vessels that operate on electricity or solar power will be an added attraction, Mr. Vijayakumar said.

Back in 2018, the government had permitted the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) to procure and operate an amphibious bus. The venture did not materialise, since importing such a vessel would attract 300% customs duty. “The SWTD is even now keen to begin such a service, since studies were done on converting Volvo buses into amphibious ones. We also formed a committee comprising experts from the Motor Vehicles Department, Ports, and Irrigation to realise the project,” said SWTD Director Shaji V. Nair.

“A bus, and for that matter most land vehicles, can be made amphibious by altering the wheel hub, providing it a water-proof hull and a propeller. The same engine [as that of a bus] can be used to rotate the propeller. The propeller position can be controlled by a toggle switch in order to switch over from water to land and vice versa,” said Sibi Mathai, who heads a firm that maintains the Volvo fleet of the KSRTC.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 1:06:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/tourism-fraternity-upbeat-over-amphibious-bus-project/article34816828.ece

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