Around 20,000 commuters from Mumbai felt the heat, as the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) pulled all its AC buses off the roads from today.
Of BEST’s 266 JCBL Cerita-model buses, not a single one was spotted on the city’s streets in the morning. Generally, BEST runs 203 AC buses on routes in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai during the peak morning hours. However, Hanumant Gophane, BEST’s public relations officer, confirmed that none of these buses were plying.
Facing its worst-ever financial crisis, the cash-strapped transport body opted to stop AC buses from plying, in a bid to minimise losses. BEST officials said the body loses more than Rs6 lakh daily, and more than Rs80 crore annually, owing to poor response from commuters.
On the other hand, commuters said the bulkiness of the AC buses meant that they took more time to manoeuvre Mumbai’s congested roads. Besides frequent breakdowns, several buses also caught fire. Most of BEST’s AC buses either plied empty or with only a few passengers, even during peak hours.
Despite this, the absence of these buses is expected to inconvenience thousands. Of the 20,000 passengers who would rely on these buses daily, 261 were pass-holders.
Mumbai commuters are now left with limited alternatives — AC cabs, app-based taxis such as Ola and Uber, and the city’s Metro network.
Hoping to curb its loses, BEST officials prepared an action plan in consultation with civic chief Ajoy Mehta. Stopping AC bus services was one of the plan’s recommendations. Even before the Shiv Sena-ruled BEST committee could approve, BEST administration abruptly discontinued the services. Opposition parties are likely to create a ruckus over the issue in Monday’s meeting, said sources.
Transport experts slammed the BEST’s decision, saying it had not made arrangements to provide Mumbaiites with alternative means of transport. Most said the transport body should have waited for summer to end before going ahead with the move.
In 2007-08, the BEST had got AC buses from different brands, aiming to reduce congestion on the city’s streets. The buses, however, initially failed to attract commuters owing to poor maintenance and performance.