It may be drowning in losses, but it is not the end of the road for the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking. All it needs is support from the state government and the nodal authorities and a little effort to tide over the current crisis.
Financial help from the state government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) can help the undertaking overcome its losses. The BEST’s transport wing suffered Rs750 crore loss in 2014, and its cumulative loss stands at Rs2,500 crore. The BEST should also explore other sources of revenue, said experts.
While dedicated lanes can help speed up buses, improving the quality of buses, introducing new technology, along with passenger addressing system, and planning better routes may help the cash-strapped BEST revive its former glory.
“If the government can give bailout packages to farmers, sugar factories, then why not the BEST,” said Kedar Hombalkar, a BEST committee member, adding that the earlier Sena-BJP would blame the UPA government for not doing anything for the undertaking, but the saffron alliance was doing nothing despite being in power at the state and Centre.
Agreeing that the BEST needs financial support, Ravi Raja, a senior BEST committee member, suggested that the undertaking explore other avenues to make more money and become self-reliant. “The BEST can generate revenue from other sources such as advertising,” said Raja.
A few years ago, the Bombay high court had appointed a high-power committee to study the traffic situation in the city. In its recommendations, the committee had suggested that the BEST be given relief from paying taxes.
It had also suggested introduction of the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), integration of various modes of transport, and integrated ticketing system, among other things.
According to experts, another way for the BEST to cut its losses is by doing its homework before introducing new routes. It should have more point-to-point services on crowded short stretches and feeder routes to other modes of transport.
“The BEST needs to improve the quality of its service to get back the passengers it has lost,” said Jagdeep Desai, a transport expert, talking about the drop in number of passengers to less than 30 lakh a day.
However, what has transport experts concerned is the reduced speed of the BEST buses, which has gone down to 13kmph. “Once the speed of buses increase, there will be reliability and punctuality and ultimately occupancy of buses,” said AV Shenoy, another transport expert.