In Kochi, CNG buses losing charm with private bus operators
KOCHI: The private bus operators who were planning to convert their diesel buses to compressed natural gas (CNG) powered vehicles are now not keen to go ahead with their plans. The reason? Diesel price has decreased, making the option of converting to CNG less attractive, as price gap between the two fuels has come down below Rs 10. “CNG looks attractive when diesel prices are high. Bus operators will be willing to change to CNG only if there is a difference of at least Rs 15 as it will be profitable for them. Otherwise, they will not be keen to convert,” said TJ Raju, president of Kochi Metropolitan Transport Cooperative Society Ltd (KMTC), adding that the government should take efforts to combat falling CNG prices. While private bus operators are willing to convert BS2 buses to CNG, they are not interested in converting BS3 vehicles, Raju added. “That means, buses up to 2010 models can be converted,” he said. He expressed the opinion that CNG buses will begin services in the city by March 31. The first bus, which was converted to CNG in New Delhi and brought to Kochi, is currently being used as a demo bus. Though all relevant documents of the bus have been submitted for approval, Raju said that he is yet to receive it. The plan was to introduce at least 400 such buses in the city. It costs Rs 3-3.5 lakh for converting a bus running on diesel to a CNG-fuelled bus. A Delhi-based private company has also expressed interest in opening a unit in Kalamassery for converting diesel buses to CNG operated buses. The representative of the firm said that they have submitted applications before RTO for setting up the workshop. “Apart from the private buses, there are school buses and buses operated by various institutions. There will be a good clientele in Kochi,” said a representative of the firm. Meanwhile, transport secretary KR Jyothilal said that there are conversion kits approved by Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI). The International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) also certifies CNG conversion. “There are approved kits and authorised workshops. After conversion, the vehicle owners will have to get the entry changed in RC book as CNG from diesel. There are no other hindrances,” he said. However, on a question whether the price benefits of CNG will be passed on to the commuters, the bus operators said that it would not be possible. The commuters will have to pay the same rates applicable to diesel buses. Meanwhile, the Ernakulam Auto Rickshaw Drivers Co-operative Society said that the main obstacle they face is the lack of charging facilities for e-autorickshaws. Around 200 e-autos are expected to arrive in the city during March-April. “The local body and other transport agencies should take the initiative to provide sufficient charging points,” said MB Syamanthabhadran, representative of the society. The auto drivers said that they have to pay a rent of Rs 350 for using these vehicles. They charge commuters a minimum fare of Rs 40 and if passengers are willing to share the fare, each one of them will have to shell out Rs 10 for travelling 2km distance.