In a first, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking, the most used public transport after suburban railways, will soon introduce bus services without conductors on certain routes in south Mumbai.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority (MMRTA), the statutory body chaired by the state transport secretary, has given its nod to the introduction of such a facility on four routes -- 1 special (CST-Nariman Point), 2 special (CST-World Trade Centre), 8 special (Churchgate-World Trade Centre) and 9 special (Churchgate-Nariman Point) – where there are no stops between the starting point and the destination, from August 1. Sources said the facility will be extended to other routes, depending on the success of the four routes. To implement it, BEST undertaking will introduce radio-frequency identification (RFID) card readers, pneumatic-operated doors and ticket-issuing facility at bus stops.
According to a senior RTO official, section 78 (1) (A) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1989, states the presence of both drivers and conductors is mandatory in buses. The MMRTA has granted the exemption using its special power under section 34 of the Maharashtra Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989.
BEST officials are hopeful that the initiative, along with a few other steps, will help them tide over the financial crisis. Apart from a drop in the number of daily passengers, BEST authorities are battling a cumulative loss of Rs 2,400 crore, including the Rs 700 crore from its transport wing. “It is feasible to introduce such a facility on these routes because the buses only ply between two stops. Reducing the operational cost will help us plug the financial losses,” said Jagdish Patil, general manager of BEST.
“RFID card readers will be installed near the driver’s seat to ensure every passenger punches in before entering. We may modify the existing buses or rope in newly arrived buses,” said Patil, adding, “The passengers will be issued tickets before boarding the bus or they can also get a pass.”