With the deadline nearing to avail the Union government subsidy for introduction of electric buses in the city, the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has decided to directly procure electric buses instead of operating them through a private operator.
In January 2018, the BMTC had floated a tender to select a private operator and chosen a Hyderabad-based company to operate 150 electric buses in a phased manner.
However, controversy erupted after the Congress and JD(S) coalition government came to power. Transport Minister D.C. Thammanna took objection to selecting a private firm to operate electric buses and also accused BMTC officials of favouring the selected firm and also alleged corruption. The Minister’s stand put the project in limbo. The matter had also reached the Chief Minister.
As the project was getting delayed for more than a year, the Centre cautioned the BMTC of losing subsidy of Rs. 75 crore under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles India (FAME India) scheme if it fails to issue a supply order before February 28.
Meanwhile, the BMTC approached experts in the Indian Institute of Science to study the terms and conditions of the previous tender process to decide on the pros and cons of operating buses through a private firm.
On Saturday, the BMTC Board, headed by chairman N.A. Haris, decided to shelve previous plans and opt for direct procurement of buses.
Mr. Haris said, “E-bus technology is evolving day by day. At the earliest, the BMTC will float a global tender to procure buses. Initially, the BMTC will induct 80 buses and the number will be increased in a phased manner. We will also take the Centre’s permission to use the subsidy allocated for the project,” he said.
He added that the company that supplies buses to the BMTC will also train their staff in driving and other areas. “The BMTC Board has taken the decision in the interest of Corporation and the over 24,000 employees who are working as bus crew,” he added. Mr. Haris also said a battery manufacturing unit will be established in the city while operating the buses. The BMTC will also hold talks with Bangalore Electricity Supply Company for setting up charging stations for the E-buses.
Speaking about the reason for dropping the earlier plan, he said, “There were no clarity on the price of the bus, maintenance cost, setting up of required infrastructure and others. Moreover, certain conditions – such as one where the private firm will have its own drivers – will go against the interest of thousands of employees of the BMTC.” He said that when the tender was floated, the cost of each bus was Rs. 1.75 crore, and the BMTC is hoping to procure buses at a comparatively cheaper rate as the cost has dropped.