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A trial run of six natural gas buses begins in Tamil Nadu

Transport Minister SS Sivasankar on Thursday inaugurated the trial run of buses at the Central Depot in Chennai

Transport Minister SS Sivasankar on Thursday inaugurated the trial run of buses at the Central Depot in Chennai (Photo | R Ayyapan)

CHENNAI: A trial run of four buses powered 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 SS Sivasankar halted the trial operation at MTC’s central depot in Chennai.

The operating costs of CNG and LNG buses are estimated to be 5% to 20% lower than those of diesel buses. Officials emphasize that vehicles running on these natural gases have a longer lifespan and are environmentally friendly because they do not emit smoke. Currently, diesel costs 92.34 per liter, while CNG costs 86 per kg and LNG 61 per kg.

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

There are also plans to soon convert two buses of TNSTC companies, including Madurai, Salem and Tirunelveli, to run on CNG or LNG. A senior official said: “A comprehensive study will be conducted to assess factors such as mileage, maintenance, passenger comfort, fuel costs and environmental impact before further decisions are made on converting more buses.”

The initiative was launched to reduce the operational costs of eight transport companies that had been facing a huge financing crisis for years. According to official data, the combined annual expenditure of eight companies for the period 2022-2023 (till February 2023) was Rs 16,985 crore, with fuel costs alone accounting for 28.35% at Rs 5,194.68 crore. The daily loss was estimated at Rs 15 crore in the financial year 2022-23.

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

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