Call it good economics or a smart move to save revenue but it's surely a loss for the city's heritage. In a slow but steady process, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking is quietly phasing out its fleet of double decker buses and plans to bring down its double decker fleet from 227 in April 2006 to as less as 75 by March 2007.
According to official documents, the BEST Undertaking had a fleet of 227 buses in April 2006 and during the financial year 2006-07, the management planned to scrap 153 buses out of service and the expected fleet of double decker bus will come down to a mere 75 by march next year.
As of 1 October 2006, the figure had already come down to 199. During the year 2006-07, the BEST added only one double decker bus to its fleet.
"We are being forced to scrap these buses as they are old and no not match the pollution control emission norms. Moreover, over running double decker buses is an expensive affair and it is highly uneconomical to run them," BEST general manager had said at a recent press conference.
"But we shall not scrap the double decker buses completely and if required, we can always buy new buses," he assured.
BEST figures state that the cost of operation of a double decker bus is Rs 58 per km as against Rs 37 for a single decker bus. At present, double decker buses run on 16 various routes in the city and suburbs. While double decker requires two conductors as against one in a single decker bus, the carrying capacity of a double decker bus is 91 passengers as against 72 for a single decker bus. Maintaining a double-decker costs Rs 50,000 a year.
History and details
• Double-decker buses were inducted in the BEST bus fleet exactly seventy years ago in 1937.
• In 1967, an articulated double decker bus was introduced to add its carrying capacity.
• In fact, double-decker buses came to India in 1937, when E.G. Salter, Assistant Operating Superintendent of the London Passenger Transport Board, became the Superintendent of the Travancore State Transport Department and imported some double-deckers for what was then Trivandrum. That same year they began to ply in Mumbai. In the 1960s, some UK-built popular Routemaster models found their way to India. Many of the Ashok Leyland red double-deckers used by BEST in Mumbai even today are close clones of the Routemaster.
• An unprecedented emotional outpouring from Mumbaikars in the form of impassioned letters, phone calls and personal visits to the BEST office had helped the city rescue its much-loved double-decker. The undertaking had, in mid-2003, decided to replace all 15-year-old double-decker buses with single-deckers. Of its nearly 400 double-deckers, almost 200 are over 15 years old.