Kerala govt going slow on e-bus agreement with Swiss company

Kerala govt going slow on e-bus agreement with Swiss company

Kochi: The Kerala government is going slow on the proposal of Swiss company Hess and Caetano to invest in the state for manufacturing e-bus.

This was one of the projects the state government had announced with much fanfare during the Evolve 2019, conference on e-mobility, it had organised in June last year.

The company had expressed its interest to invest in Kerala, but the government has not held any discussions with it to take the proposals forward.

The agreement was to manufacture 3,000 buses for Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and for additional investments.

The company had even announced a joint venture with Kerala Automobiles, a public sector undertaking, for assembling and manufacturing the e-buses in the state.

Switzerland Legislative Council member Susan Sussie Thomas, who has her roots in Kozhikode's Thiruvambadi, was one of those whose efforts had brought the company to Kerala.

After considering various locations, the company showed interest in setting up its operations in Wellington Island.

The project envisaged initially bringing 80% of the bus components, including the chassis, from Switzerland and making the rest 20% in Kerala. Gradually, 90% of the components were to be manufactured locally.

It was also agreed to complete the project by 2025.

However, since there was no clarity on where it would be allotted land and if the area would be announced as a special economic zone (SEZ), the company cooled its interest in the project.

The government did not take any steps to even form the company for manufacturing the e-buses under the joint venture.

Since the first 3,000 buses to be manufactured by the joint venture were to be bought by the KSRTC, the corporation could also have been a part of the company.

The state government’s e-mobility plan has come under attack from the Opposition, which has alleged corruption in the selection of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as consultant for the project. It alleged that the company was appointed without any competitive bidding and that the decision was taken arbitrarily by the chief minister.

The chief minister, however, dismissed the allegations saying all norms were followed and that PwC was on the empanelled list of National Informatics Centre Services Inc (NICSI), under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

The Swiss company decided to not take the project forward since the state could not guarantee where it would allot land and if the operations would have an SEZ status.

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