A statistical report obtained from the beleaguered Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking has revealed that all BEST bus routes stopped making profits, last year. Even routes which were earlier marked as no-profit-no-loss BEST bus routes, and managed to break even, slipped into the category of routes that incur losses, between October, 2013 and October, 2014.
The number of no-profit-no-loss BEST bus routes dwindled in number from 148 in October, 2013 to 39 in October, 2014. Meanwhile, the number of loss-making bus routes rose from 366 in October 2013, to 472 in October, 2014.
The report also indicated the number of average daily passengers has reduced drastically, dipping from 36.91 lakh in October 2013 to 32.94 lakh in the same month the next year.
This could mean the very survival of the BEST bus service, used by more than 32 lakh commuters every day, is at stake.
“Instead of simply increasing the fare and burdening the commuters, the BEST should improve its efficiency and increase frequency of buses, so their use increases. Any more increase in fare will only discourage commuters from using the bus services,” said Shivji Singh, BEST committee member.
Till April 2014, only one BEST bus route, 340, plying from Ghatkopar to Andheri, was making a profit, but it had stopped doing so by October. “Bus route 340 was the most utilised route, but after the Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro services started, its popularity went down. However, after the hike in Metro fare, the number of passengers has increased again,” said Hanumant Gophane, public relations officer (PRO), BEST.
BEST officials attributed the decrease in passengers to a rise in the number of daily pass-holders. “Our daily pass-holders are constantly increasing. We count only two trips per pass, but the actual number of trips is more,” said a BEST official, requesting anonymity.
Meanwhile, transport experts said it is time for the state government to intervene and ensure the survival of the BEST bus service. “The state government should initiate measures to prioritise the BEST bus service in different ways, by considering initiatives such as dedicated bus lanes and strict no-parking zones at bus stops,” said Ashok Datar, a transport expert.