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Mumbai's double deckers saved from scrap

BEST is relenting to pressure from citizens, agreeing to maintain a min fleet of 200 double deckers, reports Rajendra Aklekar.

india Updated: Nov 22, 2006 01:25 IST

Mumbai’s famous double decker buses have been saved from the scrap torch.
The BEST has finally, relented to pressure from citizens and its committee members and agreed to maintain a minimum fleet of at least 200 double decker buses.

It had earlier proposed to maintain a fleet of merely 75 double deckers in its fleet. HT had first reported that the undertaking had proposed to cut down its fleet.

Relenting to pressure from citizens and from BEST committee members, who, cutting across party lines, opposed the BEST’s proposal of slashing double deckers, first introduced in 1937, the undertaking said they will work out a way to maintain the fleet.

“Double deckers have been Mumbai’s landmark and the BEST there was a uproar from citizens when the BEST had tried to do so earlier. Even this time, a number of Mumbai citizens have come ahead and requested the BEST not to scrap its double deckers, which evoke nostalgia and charm. And hence we requested the undertaking to maintain a minimum fleet of 200 buses,” Congress committee member Ravi Raja said.

“In fact I would say, the BEST should not only maintain its fleet of double decker buses, but also think of inducting air-conditioned double deckers in its fleet. They would not only add to the city’s charm, but also be more convenient for passengers,” BJP’s Pravin Chheda said.

Committee member Sunil Ganacharya said how dare the administration even attempted to withdraw double deckers, when it had earlier given an assurance that they would maintain a minimum fleet of 200 such buses.

BEST general manager Uttam Khobragade said that he would work out a solution as to how can he maintain the fleet with minimum expenditure losses. “Running double decker buses is an expensive affair and it is highly uneconomical to run them, but we shall try and do a product mix, which means induct smaller buses on the route when there’s no crowd and induct double deckers during rush hours and crowded routes” he told HT.

Initially, the undertaking had plans to bring down its double decker fleet from 227 in April 2006 to as less as 75 by March 2007.

According to official documents, the BEST Undertaking had a fleet of 227 buses in April 2006 and during the financial year 2006-07, the management planned to scrap 153 buses out of service and the expected fleet of double decker bus will come down to a mere 75 by march next year.

As of 1 October 2006, the figure had already come down to 199. During the year 2006-07, the BEST added only one double decker bus to its fleet.

BEST figures state that the cost of operation of a double decker bus is Rs 58 per km as against Rs 37 for a single decker bus. At present, double decker buses run on 16 various routes in the city and suburbs.

While double decker requires two conductors as against one in a single decker bus, the carrying capacity of a double decker bus is 91 passengers as against 72 for a single decker bus. Maintaining a double-decker costs Rs 50,000 a year.

BEST minimum fare is now Rs 3

The minimum fare of the BEST has been brought down to Rs 3 for a minimum distance of 2 km on Tuesday. At present, the minimum fare slab was Rs 4 for a distance of 3 km.

The BEST committee had proposed to slash fares to meet the challenge of share autos in the suburbs due to which as the undertaking was seeing a drop in passenger traffic.

First Published: Nov 22, 2006 01:25 IST