It’s time for #BESTBachao: All the ways to save Mumbai’s iconic buses
HT’s four-day campaign on Mumbai’s iconic bus service dying a slow, silent death has got authorities and experts talking. And, BEST is taking note toomumbai Updated: Aug 04, 2017 10:14 IST
The buses are bad, the services poor and BEST is facing a crippling financial crisis.
But we know that. What does BEST need to get back on its feet?
HT’s four-day campaign on Mumbai’s iconic bus service dying a slow, silent death has got authorities and experts talking. And, BEST is taking note too. The focus, its general manager told HT, will now be on putting more buses on popular routes and finding ways use its finances efficiently.
Dr Surendra Kumar Bagde, the BEST general manager, said he was positive BEST can be revived.
“With the help of the civic bodies , we can work out ways to cut the losses,” he said.
In this series, HT spoke to experts to find out why it was important to revive the BEST buses. Simply put, an efficient, comfortable bus network is the least expensive way to unclog the city’s crowded roads. But for this, BEST needs funds, which it does not have. BEST has not paid more than 40,000 of its employees salary on time since April this year.
The transport body is facing losses of more than Rs2,100 crore. It has no funds to maintain its buses or expand services.
But Bagde said BEST was looking at ways to overhaul its fleet and get back on its feet. “Increasing the focus on commuters by providing the latest technologies in BEST buses and making buses more passenger-friendly is something we need to do immediately,” Bagde said. “We want to introduce smaller buses, and in the long-term, make our operations more efficient,” he said.
On Thursday, political leaders also spoke up for immediate measures to save BEST, the second-largest mass transport system in Mumbai after the railways.
State industries minister Subhash Desai, who is also the guardian minister of Mumbai, called for an urgent meeting of BMC and BEST officials on Friday morning to discuss the issue. “BEST must survive as it is linked with the daily livelihood of the people,” said city BJP chief Ashish Shelar.
He said the mismanagement by the BEST administration was to blame for the financial crisis. The good news is, BEST is making an effort. It has started using some innovative ways to get people talking about the bus network and start using them again.
The buses have for decades been Mumbai’s wheels, popular with the working-class Mumbaiite for being cheap and covering nearly every corner of the city. But experts pointed out that the network’s poor shape has rapidly caused it to lose popularity rapidly. To undo this damage, the BEST management has started posting staff at tourist attractions at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Churchgate station, Crawford market, Kurla, Andheri, Vadala, Govandi and Dadar to announce on loudspeakers the fare of the buses and how they are more affordable than share-autorickshaws and taxis.
“Ever since we started this, the ridership from these points has increased and this is helping BEST. We are also looking at putting in place more such measures to help increase commuters,” Bagde said. Reviving BEST is not impossible. But the fate of the public transport mode that was once Mumbai’s pride lies with the BMC and the state government.
And, they need to act quickly.