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Minor Interventions can save approximately 12 crores from fuel spending, says study of 3 leading bus corporations

It is well known that buses are the vessels of mass transport in India: in the cities and in inter connecting rural and urban areas. In most of the metropolitan cities, mass transit makes up 30% to 45% of the trips and buses form the majority, rails and metros notwithstanding. In the intercity travel too, buses carry up to 5 times more passengers compared to rail.

According to the Association of State Road Transport Undertakings (ASRTU) annual report (for 2009-10), fuel costs account for almost 35% of a bus corporations’ expenses. Except a handful of the 34 state road transport undertakings (SRTUs) all are in financial loss and in 2010–2011 the combined loss stood at Rs 5492 crores. Though financial profit making is not the only parameter for gauging the success of a public transport provider, considering that service to people is of priority and most SRTUs receive reimbursement for expenses.

However, being profitable helps a bus corporation to have surplus funds to buy newer buses, adopt new technology to further improve fuel efficiency, improve infrastructure like bus stops, workshops, improve reliability and improve welfare measures for staff. Or even reduce fares for the public, which is very important. In 2009–10 almost 15% to 20% of the buses were over-aged and bus corporations/undertakings were unable to carry out reforms due to budgetary constraints.

In this context, Clean Air Asia (formerly CAI-Asia) studied the current fuel efficiency and operational parameters of over 700 buses of city and intercity operations of 3 leading bus corporations in the country. The study pertained to the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) of Tamil Nadu. The data of 2011-12 was collected for the study, was analyzed with a specially designed programme through which the various fuel saving options and its potentials can be determined. The study, conducted in association with the Shakti Foundation, which looks into energy conservation, revealed a number of facts that are vital to the health of mass public transport in the country. It showed that minor interventions alone can substantially reduce the cost of fuel for state road transport corporations.

The major findings of the study are as follows:
• By reducing idling by 10 minutes, BMTC can save 100 liters per bus or approximately Rs 3 crores for its entire fleet annually and with improved driver training, data collection, analysis and maintenance a savings of almost Rs 23 crores can be achieved.
• Improved data collection and analysis of operations can streamline performance and bring in a 4% improvement.
• The study also found the following positive trends:
• KSRTC is implementing tubeless tires, with nitrogen filling, better aerodynamics leading to fuel improvement.
• SETC has detailed maintenance and driver training which has enabled it to achieve high fuel efficiency but more can be achieved.
• Better emission standard does not reduce fuel efficiency.

The need for such interventions, which can be implemented at a national level, cannot be emphasized more. Private operators should also be roped in, as they constitute almost 85% of buses.

During the study, over 20 leading organizations including manufacturers such as Volvo, Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland, SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers) governing bodies like the ASRTU, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT), research and academic institutions like Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), Centre for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning (CiSTUP) and Centre for Science & Environment (CSE) were engaged to determine the feasibility of the specially designed programme. A dedicated program should include both technical as well as systemic changes.

Parthaa Bosu, India Representative of Clean Air Asia, says, “There are short and long term measures that can be implemented. We envision that with just 2% improvement in fuel efficiency every year one can achieve a savings of approximately Rs 11,000 crores annually.”

Himani Jain of Shakti Foundation, says, “The study is initiated by Shakti to time with the dropping of subsidies for diesel and deteriorating financial health of bus corporations. The focus on fuel efficiency aspects of buses need to be brought in with support of government.”

Mr B Bhanot, Chairman TEDC, BIS and former Director of ARAI, said that the study was a bold initiative to analyse and provide suggestions for deriving maximum fuel efficiency and subsequent environment benefits. It will help the country leapfrog by creating systems of data collection, driver training and maintenance. (February 24, 2013)