Apart from Mumbaiites, it is the transport experts who are upset with the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking’s decision to stop operating air-conditioned buses.
The experts pointed out that the authorities are shutting down the bus service when they should be encouraging more people to use mass transport and reduce congestion on roads. The AC bus services were aimed at encouraging car owners to use buses instead of cars.
The experts also pointed out that the authorities should have worked on providing better infrastructure such as dedicated lanes for the AC buses to ply faster than focusing on the poor response it had been receiving from the commuters. Faster travel would have ensured that more commuters use the buses, they said.
The experts also said that the decision came at a wrong time. “We should have considered having only air conditioned buses in the fleet in future. The decision is particularly insensitive now that summer is at its peak,” said transport expert Rishi Agarwal.
Experts claimed that even if BEST brings better quality buses on roads, they won’t attract more passengers until they move faster on the roads and improve their punctuality. “Revival of AC buses is only feasible if BEST can implement dedicated bus lanes with the help of BMC and traffic police,” said AV Shenoy, transport expert.
Experts also suggest that being a parent body, it is BMC’s responsibility to bail out BEST from the current financial situation. If it is unable to do so, then the state government should step in.
The experts suspected privatisation behind discontinuation of AC buses. “Maybe this is part of a tacit understanding with private AC bus players. The BEST should have been have been more transparent and discussed the issue before arriving at this decision,” said Agarwal.
Suhas Nalawade, former BEST official and trade union leader said that BEST has stuck in vicious circle at present and needs extra efforts for getting out of the financial crisis. “Speed and punctuality of BEST buses get affected because of the traffic congestion on the roads. However, the passengers switched hiring cabs or buying new vehicles because the speed of BEST buses reduced,” he said.
Currently facing its worst financial crisis, the BEST announced to stop plying of AC buses from Monday. With the decision, all 266 buses from BEST’s fleet plying on 25 routes across Mumbai and neighbouring cities will be closed.