Trial run of six natural gas-powered buses begins in Tamil Nadu

The operational costs of CNG and LNG buses are estimated to be 5% to 20% lower than those of diesel-powered buses.
Transport Minister SS Sivasankar inaugurating the trial operation of buses at the Central Depot in Chennai on Thursday
Transport Minister SS Sivasankar inaugurating the trial operation of buses at the Central Depot in Chennai on Thursday(Photo | R Ayyapan)

CHENNAI: A trial run of four buses fuelled by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in Chennai and two buses powered by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) in Ramanathapuram was launched by the state transport department on Thursday. Transport Minister S S Sivasankar flagged off the trial operation at the MTC Central depot in Chennai.

The operational costs of CNG and LNG buses are estimated to be 5% to 20% lower than those of diesel-powered buses. Officials highlight that vehicles running on these natural gases offer greater mileage and are environmentally friendly as they don’t emit smoke. Currently, diesel costs `92.34 per litre, while CNG is priced at `86 per kg and LNG at `61 per kg.

Among the six buses now powered by natural gas, two belong to the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) and they will ply on the West Saidapet-Sriperumbudur (553W) routes. Two mofussil buses of the Villupuram division of TNSTC will ply on the Kancheepuram-Poonamallee (76 CB) and Kancheepuram-Vadamangalam (76 VA) routes. Similarly, two mofussil buses from Kumbakonam division of TNSTC on Ramanathapuram-Periyapattinam (4A) and Ramanathapuram-Sayalkudi (228) routes, have been converted to CNG vehicles.

Plans are also in place to convert two buses each from TNSTC corporations, including Madurai, Salem and Tirunelveli, to run on CNG or LNG soon. A senior official said, “A comprehensive study will be conducted to assess factors such as mileage, maintenance, passenger comfort, fuel expense, and environmental impact before further decisions are made regarding the conversion of more buses.”

The initiative was launched to cut the operational costs of eight transport undertakings that had been facing a huge fund crunch for several years. According to official records, the combined annual expenditure of eight undertakings for 2022-23 (up to February 2023) amounted to `16,985 crore, with fuel costs alone making up 28.35% at `5,194.68 crore. The daily loss was estimated at `15 crore in the 2022-23 fiscal.

A source said that the transport undertakings spent `6-`11 lakh for the conversion of each vehicle from diesel to LNG/CNG, and that the Indian Oil Corporation facilitated the conversion in collaboration with the private company. “There is an LNG filling station in Sriperumbudur. Consequently, MTC and mofussil buses equipped with LNG tanks have been deployed on this route. Depending on the trial results, additional LNG filling stations will be launched at MTC depots,” added the official.

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