KSRTC demands Rs 540 crore annually from govt to run e-buses

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Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala government is likely to face a few hurdles before it could execute its ambitious plan to promote e-bus in the state as part of its e-mobility project.

Amid reports that the Swiss company selected for manufacturing e-buses in the state is not keen now owing to the lack of clarity from the government on its demands comes the revelation that the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has kept its own condition to help implement the project.

The KSRTC has told the government that the transport utility will have to be paid Rs 540 crore annually if it has to buy and operate the 3,000 e-buses envisaged to be manufactured by the Swiss company, Hess, in partnership with a state-run public sector unit.

The amount is to cover the losses the corporation says it will incur in operating the buses.

When the e-bus proposal was being drafted, the corporation had told the government that it would buy the buses only if it is promised an additional Rs 540 crore. The state government had, in its budget for the current financial year, allocated Rs1,000 for the KSRTC.

The utility said that it is likely to incur a loss of Rs 24-26 per kilometre if it has to operate e-buses. But, if Kerala can get a bus manufacturing unit, then it was ready to support the initiative provided the government was ready to compensate it for the losses, it had said.

Hess inks pact with KAL

Meanwhile, the Switzerland-based e-bus kit manufacturer, Hess, signed an agreement with Kerala Automobiles (KAL) to form a joint venture to make e-buses in Kerala. As per the deal, the Swiss company will hold 51 per cent stake in the JV, with KAL owning the remaining share.

The government was informed about the deal after the board of directors of KAL approved it.

As reported earlier the state government has not allotted land for the joint venture even a year after the agreement was signed with Hess at the e-mobility conference, Evolve 2019, in June last year.

The Swiss company was keen on setting up its unit in Wellington Island and it wanted an SEZ status for its operations. However, since there was no clarity from the government on its demands, the company is said to have gone cold about the project.

As per the agreement signed with Hess, about 80 per cent of the bus components, including the chassis, would be brought from Switzerland initially and the remaining 20 per cent would be made in Kerala. Gradually, 90 per cent of the components would be manufactured locally.

It was also agreed to complete the project by 2025.

The government has been facing criticism from the Opposition over the appointment of a consultant for the Rs 4,500-crore e-mobility project.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala had alleged that chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had arbitrarily appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as the consultant. The decision smacked of corruption since it was taken without inviting tenders, he had claimed a few days ago.

However, the government has dismissed the allegations saying all norms were followed in the appointment.

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