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132-Seater Bus, Food And Hostesses: Nitin Gadkari’s Pilot Project For Nagpur



132-Seater Bus, Food And Hostesses: Nitin Gadkari’s Pilot Project For Nagpur

New Delhi: Pollution has become a huge issue in India and the thrust of the government is on promoting the use of non-polluting sources to power personal and public transportation, Nitin Gadkari has said.

In an exclusive conversation during the NDTV Infrashakti Awards on Tuesday, the Road Transport and Highways minister also said work is underway on a pilot project in Nagpur involving a 132-seater bus which will have airplane-like seating and a “bus hostess”, and will run on non-polluting sources of energy while still being cheaper than regular diesel buses. The government’s aim, he said, is for India to become a net energy exporter instead of an importer. 

“The most important problem in the country today is pollution – air, water and sound – especially for Delhi. We need import-substitute, cost-effective, pollution-free and indigenous transport solutions. We have electric vehicles… Now, Indian Oil is installing 300 ethanol pumps and automobile companies are bringing in flex vehicles. So, instead of filling petrol at ₹ 120 a litre, it is better to use ethanol at ₹ 60 per litre, with the vehicle running 60% on electricity and 40% on ethanol. This will also reduce pollution,” the minister said in Hindi.

The other thing the government is focusing on, Mr Gadkari said, is reducing the cost of public transportation. A diesel bus costs ₹ 115 a km to run while AC electric buses run at ₹ 41 and non-AC ones at ₹ 37, with subsidies. Without subsidies, this will now be between ₹ 50 and ₹ 60, he said, which will help reduce ticket prices by 15-20%.

“We are doing a pilot project in Nagpur with Tata. When I went to the Czech Republic, they have a trolley bus which is achieved by joining three buses. Our project will seat 132 people and will travel 49 km on the ring road and it will halt at the bus stop after 40 km, getting charged for the next 40 km in just 40 seconds. The cost for this is working out to ₹ 35-40 per km,” he said. 

“I have suggested it needs air-conditioning, comfortable chairs and space to keep a laptop in front of the seats. And, like air hostesses, there should be bus hostesses to give people fruits, packed food and beverages. My calculation is that this bus will cost (to run) 30% less than a diesel bus. If solar power is used, the cost will go down even more,” he added.

The minister said JCB has made construction equipment that uses 50% ethanol and 50% CNG and tractor makers are also working on machines that run on ethanol, methanol and CNG. This, he stressed, will help not just reduce pollution but also increase the income of farmers substantially. 

Ethanol From Stubble

Thanking Petroleum Minister Hardeep Puri for accepting his suggestion, the Nagpur MP said Indian Oil has started a project producing 1 lakh litres of ethanol from stubble, as well as bio bitumen. The project, he said, is nearly complete and will also produce 76,000 tonnes of bio aviation fuel. 

Pointing to the ministry’s success in another area, Mr Gadkari said it reduced the height of the mountain of waste in the Ghazipur landfill in Delhi by seven metres as well as in Ahmedabad. Contaminated water from sewage is being purified and is being used in power generation. Organic waste can also be used to make bio CNG and bio LNG, or hydrogen. 

The minister said drones and ropeways are also in focus and another area of interest for the ministry is funicular railways (rope-propelled trains used on steep cliffs), especially for places like Uttarakhand, Himachal and Ladakh. All of these will help reduce pollution. 

GPS Tolling In 3 Months

Making a big announcement, the highways minister said that GPS-based tolling, which the government has been working on for a while, will be implemented on 5,000 km of road within three months. 

“Tenders are ready. Satellite-based tolling will ensure you only pay for the number of km that you have travelled on a particular road, and the amount will be deducted straight from your bank account. You won’t have to stop anywhere. This will start on 5,000 km and will then be implemented everywhere,” he asserted. 

Stating that he is aiming for a “green revolution” in agriculture, Mr Gadkari emphasised that he has no shortage of funds for his projects and investors are queuing up because his ministry is sitting on a goldmine.

“When foreign investors approach me, I serve them tea and then my first question is whether they are ready to finance projects in rupees. If they say yes, I take the conversation forward and end it if they don’t. There are rupee-dollar fluctuations and the yen is so strong that we are sometimes afraid of taking loans even on zero per cent interest,” he said. 

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