In an interesting turn of events, BMTC or Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation has decided to phase out its entire range of Volvo low floor AC buses in coming years. As per the new plan, BMTC will be replacing these Volvo diesel AC buses with new all electric ones. The reason for this change, as per BMTC has been because of its mounting losses and the fact that the division is cash strapped.
The idea is to replace these Volvo low floor diesel AC buses in a phased-out manner. The first phase would see arrival of 300 new A/C electric buses in BMTC shed over the next one year. BMTC cited the fact that there are many routes where the expensive Volvo service is making much loses. These routes are being analysed and the buses that will be freed from these routes will be used only for chartered services for private firms. For the same, BMTC has decided to no longer purchase any new Volvo diesel powered buses. It is being said that leasing an Electric bus will be a more feasible option over the current crop of Volvo’s.
At present, BMTC has around 825 Volvo low floor AC buses that fall under the Vajra and Vayu Vajra (airport) services. On an average, each of these low floor premium AC Volvo buses cost BMTC around INR 1 crore. For years, BMTC has been among the major customers of Volvo buses in the SRTU (State Run Transport Undertaking) category. In fact, BMTC was the country’s first SRTU to order and incorporate these premium low floor AC Volvo buses for its services.
This is surely going to be a rather big hiccup in the Volvo’s CV market growth in the bus segment for sure. However, this also signals towards a change in policy and mindset to include more and more of electric powered vehicles for mass transport. Indeed, the biggest effects of decreased automotive pollution will come from these mass transport systems changing over to electrical infrastructure.
It is being said that BMTC is looking forward to order brand new 300 low floor electric buses that will be 12 meters in length and should be able to seat 37 persons in comfort. BMTC will be deploying these new electric buses on high priority routes of the likes of - airport, outer ring road, Electronics City and Whitefield. All these are currently among the major routes for the Volvo AC low floor buses. Sources say that BMTC will keep the current ticket prices at same levels once the transition to electrics start. This has been decided to earn back some extra revenue to decrease mounting losses.
As per BMTC sources, their current Volvo services are proving to be rather expensive and has been making heavy losses. These sources say that calculations done by BMTC show that operating a single AC Volvo low floor bus incurs a cost of around INR 75 to INR 80 per km. This includes the salary for staff, and corresponding GST. For the same parameters, the operating cost of an electric bus would hover around a range of INR Rs 60 to INR 63 per km. This is significantly lower than the current line-up of BMTC Volvo services. Not to mention an added advantage of reduced pollution on roads as well as a smoother silent working.
To further reduce it losses, BMTC has also taken up scrapping of around 1,089 non-AC buses in 2019 only. To manage capacity fall, BMTC is bringing in 357 new non-AC buses that will still run on diesel though. These will be of 10-meter length along with a seating capacity of 41 passengers and would be incorporated into services by January 2020. BMTC reps say that scrapping of Volvo buses on the other hand is not economically viable since they won’t return more than a few lakhs in scrapping, way less than the high purchase costs.
As per current scrapping policy, BMTC scraps a normal non-AC bus either after it has done 8.5 lakh km or above or have gone past 11 years in age, whichever is earliest. The same retirement criteria for Volvo buses is set at 10 years or 10 lakh kilometres, whichever earlier. However, BMTC says that they are working on a new scrappage policy for Volvo buses soon, while the current average age of its Volvo bus fleet is 8 years and 5.4 lakh km.
In order to better utilize its Volvo bus fleet and to reduce its operating costs, BMTC also started transferring Volvo buses to KSRTC to serve nearby areas beyond Bangalore city, the project has been set by, former transport minister DC Thammanna.
As for the upcoming new fleet of all electric buses, BMTC is said to be targeting April 2020 as the timeline to put the first buses on roads. The order of these 300 electric buses will be given to a single manufacturer who will be supposed to deliver all the 300 units within one year of awarding of contract. As per the sources there are six major companies vying for this contract — Olectra Greentech Ltd, Ashok Leyland, Tata Motors, Edison Motors, JBM Group and AMS Electric Mobility Limited.