Nearly 1,600 of the city’s 3,500 commercial buses have been booked by groups heading out of the city for New Year celebrations, according to a member of the Maharashtra Commercial Bus and Truck Association. He requested anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the media.
People are also trying to book school buses that are on contract, which can be used commercially. There are around 2,000 school buses in Mumbai.
“There is a surge in demand for commercial buses. Most of them are heading to resorts and bungalows close to Mumbai,” said a transporter on condition of anonymity. Lonavla, Matheran and Mahabaleshwar are the most popular destinations.
Sources in the Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) said that talk of a security threat made many prefer a celebration outside the city. “We were informed that many commercial vehicles would leave the city. It’s possible that people want to avoid the security checks,” said an RTO official on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Even chauffeurs were in great demand. With the police cracking down on drink driving, revellers are taking no chances. “I have asked my driver to accompany us on December 31 so that I reach home safe after partying hard,” said Sukumar Sinha, an Andheri resident.
Car rental companies and tourist vehicle owners were inundated with inquiries for chauffeurs. “We received several calls asking for drivers, but the demand is too high to meet,” said Nitin Dossa, of the Western India Automobile Association.
A chauffeur-driven car costs Rs 1,000 per day.