These are the times in which severe crisis is being faced by the state owned Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC). Fuel expenses, which are increasing day by day, have put KSRTC in grave trouble which it has never experienced in recent past. Is there any way to pull KSRTC out of this mess? Is there any alternative way by which KSRTC can be operated in a better manner without incurring this financial burden?
The solution for this trouble that KSRTC is in at present would be conversion of the 5000+ buses of KSRTC enabling them to run on Compressed Natural Gas. Following the formation of Kerala GAIL Gas Limited, plans are already underway for making it a reality. Kerala GAIL Gas Limited is a new venture clubbing Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation and GAIL Gas Ltd. Since the CNG provided by Kerala GAIL Gas Limited to KSRTC will be much cheaper than diesel, it will be a solution to the financial crisis that KSRTC is facing at present.
KSRTC to go Green
The conversion of the buses which are part of the largest network of public transport in the State to Compressed Natural Gas is not only a solution to the financial crisis, but also an important step towards making KSRTC more environmental friendly.
In 2000s, all public transport vehicles in New Delhi underwent similar conversion to CNG; the result was extraordinary and it is still being implemented. The main advantage that came up with this conversion was that Delhi’s air improved its quality. Until that time, the main source of air pollution in Delhi came from the public transport vehicles. When the public transport vehicles underwent conversion and started using CNG as fuel, the emissions from these vehicles went down drastically. For example, it has helped reduce Particulate Matter (PM10), Carbon Monoxide (CO), and Sulphur dioxide (SO2) concentrations quite significantly. The result is an appreciable reduction in the extent of air pollution in Delhi.
Reduction in Maintenance Cost
Several studies have proven that the maintenance cost, which is a main expense that public transport operators have to consider along with rise in fuel expenses, can be reduced to a great extent, by about 40%, if the vehicles are converted to use CNG as fuel. Another main advantage because of this conversion is that the intervals between oil changes for these vehicles will be extended dramatically. That is from 10,000 to 25,000 additional miles depending upon the way the vehicle is being used.
Increased Performance of KSRTC Buses
It is proved that compressed natural gas engines are in many ways superior in terms of performance parameters when compared to the traditional diesel engines. The efficiency of CNG engines is also great when compared to the diesel engines and that too will add to the performance advantages of KSRTC buses if CNG is implemented on them.
Once the conversion of the entire buses that are owned by KSRTC to compressed natural gas is complete, we can see that our KSRTC is also reducing the losses incurred by it, that too in a cleaner and greener way.
Safe Travel With KSRTC
In addition, natural gas is very safe. Being lighter than air, in the event of an accident natural gas simply dissipates into the air, instead of forming a dangerous flammable pool on the ground like diesel or other liquid fuels. Also, Natural gas fuel storage tanks on vehicles are stronger and sturdier than diesel or gasoline tanks.
Primary Impediments and Solution
The primary impediments to the public proliferation of CNG buses include the cost of conversion that requires some modifications to be done to the engine and related parts, as well as limited refueling infrastructure. However, as the technology becomes more advanced, the cost of manufacturing/ modifying the vehicles to natural gas fuel should drop. Also, with the completion of the gas pipeline network by Kerala Gail Gas Ltd, centralized fuelling stations will come up as ancillary facilities, which the KSRTC can effectively make use of.