Monday, 30th October 2017

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Quiet and efficient, electric buses in New Town

Safe ’N’ smooth ride at just Rs 10

By Snehal Sengupta
  • Published 21.05.18
  •  
One of the three electric AC buses that have been operating in New Town since the beginning of this month, (below) a turnstile blocks passenger access to the seats till a ticket is bought

New Town: Three buses are bringing about a "silent revolution" on the streets of New Town.

The green-and-white electric buses have been jointly procured by the Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (Hidco) and Coal India as part of a pilot project. A fourth bus is on standby and two more are likely to be added to the fleet soon.

The 32-seater AC buses have been operating on three routes since the beginning of this month, covering 49 bus stops and providing last-mile connectivity to several housing complexes in New Town that don't have any buses plying in front of them.

Unlike the smoke-spewing noisy buses that the city is associated with, these buses have no harmful emissions and are silent too.

Metro took a ride on one of them

All seats on the electric buses have seatbelts to ensure passenger safety; (below) one of the two CCTV cameras (circled)  on  the bus 

No conductor

The electric buses have no conductors on board to hand out tickets to passengers. The hydraulically operated doors open at the press of a button by the bus driver.

To get to the aisle with seats on either side, passengers have to cross a turnstile. The turnstile remains locked with a a bright red "X" sign glowing on its side. The light turns green when a passenger buys a ticket from the driver. The printed ticket is issued from a portable machine.

The turnstile is now unlocked and the passenger can walk through.

Passengers are not allowed to stand inside these buses.

Seatbelts and CCTVs

All seats on the buses have seatbelts to ensure passenger safety.

Each bus is fitted with two CCTV cameras - one overlooking the rows of seats behind the driver and the other focussed at the front entrance. The live feeds can be accessed by the driver at the press of a button on a monitor placed on the dashboard. The bus also features a rear-view camera that allows driver to see real-time images of what is happening behind the bus.

"We always keep the rear camera on while driving to warn us of other vehicles behind us," said Sudipto Pal Choudhury, one of the drivers who earlier drove a Tata Marco Polo diesel-powered bus.

Stop buttons are placed on handles at regular intervals and a buzzer beeps loudly next to the driver in case one of them is pressed.

"The buttons are meant to alert the driver when a passenger wishes to get off. They can also be used in case of an emergency," a Hidco official said.

For passenger convenience, the next bus stop is displayed on a glow signage.

The buses have large windows that can be used as emergency exits. Bright red hammers are installed next to the windows and can be used to smash the glass in case of an emergency. Fire extinguishers and first-aid kits are also kept on board.

No engine

The Skyline Pro-E buses, built by Eicher, have been retrofitted by global technology firm KPIT to run on electricity.

Instead of regular diesel engines, the buses are powered by six electric motors - four placed at the rear to drive the rear wheels using a propeller shaft and differential box and two placed in front to run the bus's steering unit, air-conditioning and other systems. The buses run on rechargeable batteries.

Power is carried to the rear wheels through an automatic gearbox that has two forward gears and one reverse gear.

The buses can run for around 177km on single charge with the air-conditioning unit switched on throughout, a KPIT official said.

The buses are quite efficient and capable of regenerating 36 per cent of the power from braking and use 0.8 electricity unit/km, the official said. While running, the buses don't make any noise.

The battery-operated buses are  charged using a device that resembles a plasma gun from Star Wars. Pictures by Mayukh Sengupta 

Charged up

The buses do not have an exhaust system since they run on electricity.

The batteries can be charged at the NKDA bus stand which has a charging station-cum-workshop behind Pride Hotel. A full charge takes six hours.

For quick recharge, the buses can go the stand near the Sukhobrishti Housing Complex and Eco Urban Village.

The buses, which ply from 8am to 12pm and again from 4pm to 8pm, are charged at night and from 12pm to 4pm.

A meter on the dashboard informs the driver about the battery status.

Speed

The electric buses have a top speed of 80kmph but in New Town they do not exceed 50kmph, same as diesel buses.

Fare

All passengers are charged a flat fare of Rs 10.

Routes

The buses run on three routes. The first starts behind Pride Hotel and stops near Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Government College be, Newtown, behind Central Mall, Reliance Fresh at Utsa the Condoville, New Town bus stand, Balaka Abasan, Jal Vayu Towers, Uniworld City, Rabindra Tirtha, Swapno Bhor and the circle back to Pride Hotel.

The second has the same stops as the first but in the opposite direction.

The third route starts from the Akankha intersection and moves towards Akankha Bengal Shelter, the owl intersection opposite Eco Park and ends at Eco Urban Village.

Official speak

Debashis Sen, the chairman-cum-managing director of Housing and Infrastructure Development Corporation (Hidco) said New Town is the country's first township where electric buses are plying commercially.

"We can procure more such buses if they become popular. Response from commuters as well as residents has been quite good," Sen said.