400 AC buses to make BEST better in Mumbai
Paving the way for a smoother commute for Mumbaiites, the policy-making committee of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) on Tuesday gave nod to the plan to get 400 smaller, air-conditioned buses on hire.
Surendrakumar Bagde, general manager of BEST, told the panel the first batch of 100-200 mini AC buses is expected to arrive in August. “By November, all buses will be inducted in the fleet,” he said, adding they have a plan to increase the fleet size to 10,000, with induction of 6,000 vehicles in the first phase.
For long, transport experts have been advising BEST to induct mini and midi buses in the fleet, as they can manoeuvre easily on congested roads and also they can depart early, on getting the required number of passengers, as compared to longer buses.
The authority is hiring these buses on a wet lease model, in which the contractor will bear the driver and maintenance cost, while BEST will provide its conductor. According to the proposal presented to the panel, 200 buses each will be hired from two contractors. Earlier, BEST placed an order for 80 electric buses, of which 40 are mid-sized and expected to arrive soon.
According to the proposal, the mini AC buses will be 21-seater, with a single door, and will be hired for seven years.
Originally, BEST had planned to hire 450 buses, including 200 mini AC buses, 200 mini non-AC buses and 50 midi buses on wet lease from two contractors. But the decision was put on hold, after the labour union challenged it in the high court, expressing concerns over fare cut.
In the wake of the changed scenario, especially after IAS officer Praveen Pardeshi became the civic chief, BEST revised its earlier plan of hiring 450 mixed types of buses, and decided to hire 400 mini AC buses from the same contractors.
Although the ruling Sena members strongly supported the proposal, members of other parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, opposed it on the grounds that the administration was revising tender conditions, instead of inviting fresh tenders.
The opposition members also objected some clauses in the agreement that BEST was going to sign with the contractors, which states the buses won’t ply on weekends and there won’t be conductors on these buses. “We are running public bus service and not doing a 9 (am) to 5 (pm) job,” said Ravi Raja, senior Congress member on the panel.