Electric bus deal goes to cabinet meet

Electric (above) and NGV buses have been tested several times and found suitable for Bangkok, and it appears the government may be ready to act on obtaining some. (Photo by Seksan Rojjanametakun)

The Transport Ministry will ask the cabinet on Tuesday to approve a purchase of 200 electric vehicles to replace ageing city buses under a plan to offer better services and reduce air pollution.

If the cabinet approves, the government will call bidding immediately, said Deputy Transport Minister Ormsin Chivapruck.

The city bus operator, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA), has finished drafting the terms of reference, he said.

The process to acquire the electric buses can move quickly, said BMTA director Surachai Eamvachirasakul. The ToR can be announced next month, followed by bidding in January and contract signing in March next year.

Seven to 10 firms have shown an interest in supplying the buses. Among them are Chinese manufacturers of electric vehicles, Mr Surachai said.

The Metropolitan Electricity Authority will build electricity charging stations for motorists to recharge their vehicles, he said.

The electric bus purchase, with an estimated cost of 2.3 billion baht, is supported by the Prayut Chan-o-cha government which wants city folks to travel in new and more modern buses that are both energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

“These electric buses will serve people under a pilot project,” Mr Ormsin said. “In future other projects will follow, which will also in turn benefit domestic industry.”

The acquisition of 200 electric buses is part of the BMTA’s original plan to buy 3,138 natural gas vehicle (NGV) buses, approved by the cabinet in 2005.

However, the agency later decided to go ahead with the purchase of only 489 NGV buses as it feared they will impose high costs over the long term.

The 200 electric buses are a new option under the BMTA’s mix of measures to buy electric and NGV buses as well as repair the air-con and non-air con buses which are currently in use.

Ormsin: Local industry will benefit

The agency is waiting for delivery of the first lot of 100 NGV buses to be supplied by Bestlin Group, which was awarded the contract on Sept 30 after it cleared up alleged irregularities in its accounts as alleged by its competitor in the bidding.

The delivery will be made between Dec 1-10, Mr Surachai said, adding the remaining buses will be given to the BMTA next month.

All will be air-conditioned buses with a low-floor body to help the disabled in wheelchairs.

Each bus will be also equipped with a Wi-Fi connection for commuters and CCTV cameras to monitor driver behaviour.

The BMTA will replace part of its ageing bus fleet with these NGV vehicles.

Next year, Mr Surachai said, it plans to decommission 150 buses which have served the city for up to 30 years.

At present, the agency owns 2,634 buses, most of which are non-air conditioned buses, also known as “hot buses.” It has 1,114 air-conditioned buses.

The BMTA hopes the plan to acquire new buses will help it relieve its debt burden. In the 2016 financial year, which ended in September, it expected a loss of 4.2 billion baht, a slight drop from 4.5 billion baht in 2015 financial year.

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