Even as 40 lakh Mumbaiites struggle to get into crammed Brihanumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) buses everyday, at least 450 BEST buses stay off the city roads at any given point in time, waiting to be repaired.
These buses lie unused as the BEST does not have sufficient maintenance staff to repair these buses. “In the last three months, the bus fleet has not been operating full strength. Several buses are lying inside bus depots waiting for maintenance work due to non-availability of staff,” said Ravi Raja, BEST committee member.
In June, of its 4,700-odd bus fleet, 4,151 buses were operational, in July this improved to 4,288, but in August this figure again came down to 4,240 buses.
BEST sources said the problem is that many of the technicians on the payroll, who worked in the depots and were responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and fault repairs, have quit. “These staffers have an engineering background and have moved to the private sector where they earn better,” a source said.
Some BEST authorities said so many buses are off the roads because of the rains and that it’s a normal process to have 200 buses off the roads for maintenance at any point in time.
The lack of maintenance staff is also prompting the running of buses with minor defects. Sunil Ganacharya, a member of the BEST committee, said: “In several depots, the staff maintaining these buses ask drivers to run them with minor problems as otherwise they have to mention the problem in their logbook. Once it’s recorded, the buses cannot leave the depot until they are fixed completely.”
When the BEST had a fleet of 3,000 buses, it had 7,000 repairs and maintenance staff. Now, with nearly 4,700 buses, its staff strength is just 3,000. Statistics show that three buses break down daily in the city.
“We agree that the number of breakdowns have not improved, but the process of recruitment has begun,” said O.P. Gupta, general manager, BEST.