The state’s transport department has decided to set up a contingency plan to keep the city moving in the event of a strike by any transport agency, and to avoid a repeat of the situation on Tuesday and Wednesday, when striking railway motormen crippled the city’s rail network.
The two-day strike saw people stranded at railway stations for hours, then forced them into the already saturated road transport system – even the 4,000 extra buses arranged by the state, including state transport and private school buses, fell short.
“We had already planned to have a private fleet bus system in place in the state. But considering what happened in Mumbai this week, we will invite bids for private luxury bus fleets for Mumbai on important routes. This will take some time to take off but we will invite bids soon,” said State Transport Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil.
This, he said, will be on long routes from the airport to suburbs such as Kalyan, Thane, Virar, even south Mumbai, to travel alongside rail routes.
The private bus fleet will be in addition to the 3,500 buses run by the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking. “This will be on the lines of the fleet taxis we now have in the city. They are for a specific segment of people who want to travel in comfort, in air-conditioned buses, and are willing to pay a premium,” Vikhe-Patil added.
Vikhe-Patil is scheduled to meet the railway board on the motormen issue. “The next deadline for the Central Railway Board to settle the motormen wage issue is June 15. I am meeting the railway board around May 20 to make sure they address the issue,” he said.
The transport department is also readying other parts of the contingency plan.
“We have set up a helpline that citizens can call if they are overcharged for taxis or auto rickshaws,” he said.