Dug-up Mumbai: Wait time for BEST buses shoots up to 45 minutes | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Dug-up Mumbai: Wait time for BEST buses shoots up to 45 minutes

Apr 11, 2024 09:16 AM IST

Mumbai's iconic BEST buses face delays due to road work, shortage of drivers, and maintenance issues, leaving passengers frustrated with long wait times.

If you thought only pedestrians and vehicle owners are suffering due to Mumbai’s perennially dug-up roads, think again. The city’s iconic BEST bus is a victim too, with the waiting time on some routes having gone up to 45 minutes.

Mumbai, India - August 22, 2018: Potholes at Vakola in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, August 22, 2018. (Photo by Satyabrata Tripathy/Hindustan Times) (Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)
Mumbai, India - August 22, 2018: Potholes at Vakola in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, August 22, 2018. (Photo by Satyabrata Tripathy/Hindustan Times) (Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)

The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport’s fleet of 3,020 buses across 400-plus routes ferry three million passengers daily. Lately, though, passengers have been left fuming by an increased wait time, packed buses, and the inability of BEST’s Chalo app to show the proper location of the buses. “I have to wait for a good 30-40 minutes for my bus from Tardeo to the eastern suburbs,” said Rupesh G, a frequent user of BEST buses.

BEST officials blamed the delays on ongoing infrastructure work like the construction of the Metro network and flyovers, which have resulted in buses getting stranded in traffic snarls and arriving late at stops.

A BEST official said that the wait time is between 30-45 minutes only for long routes beyond 20 km. “For shorter journeys, which comprise 90% of the routes, the wait period is 10 minutes,” the official said.

However, the BEST workers’ union painted a different picture, saying these figures were true only during peak hours. For the rest of the day, the waiting time was higher even on shorter routes, it claimed.

The union gave an example of a bus depot in central Mumbai where the wet-lease operator’s fleet fell 95,000 km short of its monthly target in March. “It could be due to ongoing road work, shortage of drivers and conductors or maintenance work,” said another BEST official.

The authorities also attributed the delays to a shortage of buses, although the fleet size has gone up from 2,940 a few months ago to 3,020 currently.

Ravi Raja, former BEST Committee member, blamed the delays on poor planning and lack of action from the public body. “Moreover, why is it that they are going easy on the manufacturers for the delay in supplying buses to BEST? That is a major reason for the inconvenience caused to people.”

Rupesh added that the quality of BEST’s wet-lease buses has deteriorated and questioned why the public body can’t procure its own vehicles. “There seems to be no accountability whatsoever,” he said. Out of BEST’s fleet of 3,020 buses, around 1,900 are on a wet-lease agreement, wherein a private contractor operates and maintains the buses, and also manages the staff. BEST pays the contractor for this service.

BEST is in the process of getting 2,100 air-conditioned electric single-deckers, 900 double-deckers, and has also proposed to procure 2,400 single-deckers, all of which will run on a wet lease.

Meanwhile, BEST bus drivers working for wet-lease operators said they were able to complete only 70% of their trips in a regular six-to-eight-hour shift, especially during peak hours due to the heavy traffic. “It gets really frustrating, particularly in this scorching heat. The good thing is we get our full salaries and it isn’t affected because of the delays,” said one of the drivers.

According to BEST, a bus needs to complete a daily average of 150 km. The wet-lease operators are paid anywhere between 57-65 per kilometre.

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