THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The long-distance electric bus services launched by the KSRTC suffered a jolt on the first day itself with two vehicles running out of charge during their maiden trip on Monday.
While one Thiruvananthapuram- Ernakulam AC electric bus broke down at Cherthala, another met with the same fate at Vyttila.
While employees blamed it on the lack of planning by the KSRTC prior to the launch of the much-hyped service, a senior KSRTC officer blamed the drivers. After the Sabarimala special service, KSRTC launched its first e-bus long-distance services on Monday. A total of 10 buses were scheduled, including five trips from Thiruvananthapuram to Ernakulam via Kollam and Alappuzha, and five return services.
The first bus, which started its journey from Thampanoor to Ernakulam at 5 am, ended its trip near X-ray Junction at Cherthala after its batteries ran dry. The second bus, plying on the same route, had to stop service at Vyttila after it ran out of charge. The passengers had to board other KSRTC buses along the route to reach their destinations.
KSRTC trade unions alleged the corporation officers had not done proper study before launching the long-distance trips. “It was notified in advance batteries may die before the completion of the trip if there are unexpected traffic delays. Also, we had suggested these buses were not suitable for long-distance services. But the authorities did not consider our suggestions,” said M G Rahul, AITUC general secretary. Cherthala and Vyttila KSRTC bus stands do not have charging points. The corporation has set up charging stations in Thiruvananthapuram, Haripad, Ernakulam and Aluva. As per KSRTC’s earlier statement, once the e-bus is fully charged, it has a capacity to operate up to 250 km.
The buses have been hired by the KSRTC through a wet-lease contract, according to which it is the company’s responsibility to provide a driver and take care of the maintenance. It is the corporation’s responsibility to provide a conductor and electricity for the bus. The corporation officers blamed the bus drivers for the incident. “Of the 10 buses deployed for service on Monday, only two buses broke down midway and all others reached their destinations. The company informed us both the bus drivers were new and they did not have proper knowledge of the technical management of the bus. Though there was an option to recharge the bus at Haripad, they did not charge the vehicle,” said a KSRTC officer.
The e-bus has a top-up charging facility which will ensure 20 per cent charge in 10 minutes. “Owing to the incident, the KSRTC MD has directed all drivers to do a top-up recharge once they reach the Haripad station,” said the officer.
Though officers claim there are four active charging stations, employees say the stations at Haripad and Ernakulam depots are still not ready. The two buses which broke down can be charged only once the mobile generator unit is made available by the owner company, said a KSRTC conductor who was on duty in one of the two e-buses that broke down.Goldstone Infratech Ltd, which is in charge of the e-bus services in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana, had carried out the trial run of the e-buses for KSRTC recently. The bus has advanced features like CCTV camera, GPS and entertainment systems.