The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport’s (BEST) steepest bus fare hike in recent years will come into effect from Sunday. While fares of regular buses will rise by Rs 1 to Rs 10, those for air-conditioned (AC) buses will go up by Rs 5 to Rs 30.
The fare revision will severely affect the travel budgets of approximately 32 lakh daily suburban commuters. Besides, this is not the last time that bus fares will be revised this year. Starting April 1, these fares will be hiked by a further Rs 1-2. Following the hikes, the BEST is expected to generate Rs 125-Rs 150 crore in revenue.
“The fare revision is taking place according to the rules and regulations. Sunday’s fare hike was supposed to come into effect last year itself, but because of the subsidy granted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) it was delayed till now,” said Arun Dudhwadkar, BEST committee chairman.
In the backdrop of the parliamentary and assembly elections last year, the BMC had granted a subsidy of Rs 150crore to the transport authority to avoid fare revision. However, as the subsidy was denied by corporators this year, the city will see two consecutive fare revisions in less than a quarter.
Sharply criticising the fare revision, BEST committee member Pramod Patil said, “The tariff hike is not because of an increase in operation cost, but is due to the wrong decisions taken by the undertaking.”
The undertaking is currently running cumulative losses of Rs 3,500 crore, which can be blamed on incorrect policy decisions and projects that were implemented poorly, said Patil.
In 2009, BEST had procured 200 AC buses for Rs 65 lakh each. While the buses were found to be of poor quality, they were also reportedly overpriced. In previous years, similar buses had been purchased for Rs 50 lakh each, wasting tax-payers’ money.
To make matters worse, the BEST also spent Rs 106 crore on the combined maintenance and operational costs of AC buses till 2013-2014.
The procurement of the transport authority’s automated software system for power bill generation is also in doldrums. “As our staff is not efficiently trained, the contract for the system was given another extension. We are also spending more than Rs 125 crore on our IT department. It is a double blow to the BEST,” said BEST committee member Kedar Hombalkar.