The city is set to finally join the list of metros having electric buses. Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) will get 100 e-buses which will not only be supplied but also be operated and maintained by a private entity to be selected through a tender that was floated on Thursday.
These low-floor A/C buses with a carrying capacity of 70 people with 35 seats (2+1 pattern) will be operated from the Adyar and Central (Pallavan Salai) depots along 27 different routes including 29C (Thiruvanmiyur-Perambur), 570 (Kelambakkam-Koyambedu) and 40A (Anna Square-Pattabiram) connecting such transit hubs as Tambaram, Broadway, Thiruporur and Chennai Central railway station.
Each of the buses, estimated to cost around 1.2 crore, will have batteries with an 8-hour capacity and that can be charged in 30 minutes during day breaks. Charging stations will also be created at the two depots by the selected private firm and the setup will allow 4-hour overnight charging too. Government will pay the money upfront to the contract-winning firm using loan acquired from the German Bank (KfW).
MTC, which will get the entire ticketing revenue, will pay a fixed amount to the contractor based on the working hours. Besides, for the first time, MTC crew will not be deployed to run the 100 e-buses. Instead, the private firm will supply trained drivers, and will pay them separately.
On a few occasions in the past, such ‘semi-privatization’ attempts had irked transport workers’ unions which had requested government to train the soon-to-be-recruited young drivers for operating the vehicles. The state transport deprtment had formed a committee to study the feasibility (under gross cost contract model).
In response, transport minister S S Sivasankar said that all mechanics and bus crew of MTC had dealt only with buses fitted with diesel engines. “We neither have expertise in electric mobility not have training facilities. So, it is better to leave it to the suppliers. We have explained it to the unions, and they have agreed to it.” The pilot project in Chennai will be expanded to other cities across the state including Madurai, Trichy, and Coimbatore soon, he added.