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PM-eBus Sewa Gets Green Light: Union Cabinet Approves ₹57,613 Crore for Urban Mobility Transformation

The Union Cabinet approved the 57,613 crore PM-eBus Sewa on Wednesday to promote urban mobility and decarbonize public transport in cities. Ten thousand electric buses would be introduced in 100 cities through a public-private partnership (PPP), according to Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur during a press conference following the Cabinet meeting.

The program will apply to cities with populations ranging from 300,000 to four million (as determined by the 2011 Census). 169 cities are eligible to apply. Cities will be chosen using a “challenge method,” according to Thakur.

According to a government release, cities with no organized bus service would be given precedence.

The final number of cities covered will be determined by the number of cities that apply for the competition, according to Manoj Joshi, secretary, of the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoUHA), who also stated that cities with populations exceeding four million – the nine largest cities in India – will be excluded from the scheme. These cities are already covered by the Union Ministry of Heavy Industries’ Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles plan.

Thakur stated that the programme will satisfy both environmental concerns and Indian cities’ current and future transport needs. Buses will be distributed depending on population: cities with fewer than 500,000 people will receive 50 buses, cities with populations between 500,000 and two million will receive 100 buses, and cities with populations between two and four million would receive 150 buses, according to the minister. Cities that are retiring old buses will also receive new ones, he noted.

The PM-eBus Sewa, which would sustain bus operations for ten years, is expected to cost R 57,613 crore, with the central government contributing R 20,000 crore.

The scheme will support bus operations for ten years and is expected to generate 45,000 to 55,000 direct jobs, as well as associated infrastructure such as upgrading bus depots and charging metres and substations for e-buses, according to a government statement released following the Cabinet meeting.

As part of the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs’ (MoHUA) Green Urban Mobility Initiatives, the government will also provide infrastructure upgrades to 181 cities, including the 169 eligible to apply for the PM-eBus Sewa, the nine largest cities, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Navi Mumbai, and Lakshwadeep.

These efforts include bus priority infrastructure, multimodal interchange facilities, automated fare collecting systems based on national common mobility cards, and charging infrastructure. The bus operations will be managed and paid for by states and cities. According to the statement, the central government will offer assistance in the form of a subsidy to the extent stipulated in the proposed scheme.

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman stated the aim to expand public bus service, mostly in tier two and three cities, in the 2021-22 Union budget. According to urban mobility experts, PM-eBus Sewa will not only supplement India’s poor bus service, but will also assist reduce air pollution produced by the transportation industry.

Amit Bhatt, managing director (India) of the International Council of Clean Transport (ICCT), pointed out the deficiency, stating that India has 2.3 million buses, including 1.7 million buses and 600,000 mini-buses. However, only 40,000 of these are part of the official city bus network.

China, on the other hand, has an estimated 700,000 urban bus fleet. “In this context, the PM e-bus Sewa initiative’s approval stands as a potentially pivotal development, capable of instigating a transformative shift within India’s bus transport system.”

He also stated that the plan aims to increase public transit capacity by 25%. However, its relevance goes beyond simply increasing capacity, as the scheme’s reliance on electric buses has significant consequences for public health. “This viewpoint is supported by ICCT research, which clearly shows that real-world NOx emissions from even BS-VI buses exceed recommended limits by five to six times.” Furthermore, particulate matter emissions exceed current limitations,” added Bhatt.

WRI India CEO Madhav Pai described the plan as ‘a significant milestone in expanding the provision of bus services that enable equitable access to economic and social opportunities’. “At this juncture, it is especially important to provide assistance to medium and smaller cities that lack robust transport systems.” With a daily passenger load of six million, these buses are expected to travel six billion bus km over their lifetime. Furthermore, the deployment of electric buses has the potential to eliminate 16.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent tailpipe emissions over a ten-year period, ” he stated.

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