The West Bengal government has started talks with electric bus manufacturers to work out a scheme so that private operators can replace their existing fleet of diesel-run buses, urban development minister Firhad Hakim said on Wednesday. “Around 100 electric buses are already on the roads.
The state government will procure over 1,000 such buses for Kolkata. But our efforts toward reducing the use of fossil fuels don’t stop here. We have begun discussing a replacement scheme for private bus operators as well,” Hakim said.
The minister was speaking at a programme where Tata Motors was handed a letter of award (LoA) for the supply of 1,180 electric buses. Till afternoon, when the function was held Hakim was holding the charge of transport portfolio. Later in the evening, Snehasis Chakraborty replaced him as the transport minister.
Hakim said: “We have held talks with Tata Motors for drawing up a replacement scheme for the private bus operators.” Several private bus operators said they were eager about the transport department’s plan of switching over to CNG-run or e-buses in the wake of a recent National Green Tribunal order to phase out old vehicles.
On July 26, the tribunal ordered the phasing out of all 15 years or older vehicles within the next six months. The government said it would appeal to the NGT for extending the deadline. “We realised way back that there has to be an alternative to fossil fuel. Today as we sign the agreement, other states are still discussing it,” Hakim said.
Tata Motors officials said they were targeting the end-2023 as the deadline for supplying the 1,180 electric buses. The fares will remain the same and the company supplying the buses will be responsible for running and maintaining them for a period of 12 years. “We have decided that CNG buses will ply in the districts and the electric buses, only in Kolkata and its adjoining areas,” Hakim said.
Environmentalists said electric buses would help reduce pollution but using CNG would be a better alternative. “Around 97 per cent of the electricity in West Bengal is produced from coal. So with electric buses, we may stand to gain locally but not globally,” said environmentalist Subhas Datta, who had filed a PIL pressing for the use of CNG a few years ago.