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After HC nod, BEST to add 80 electric buses to its fleet

In wet lease model, a private operator pays for the driver and maintenance of the buses

mumbai Updated: Apr 16, 2019 07:37 IST
Kailash Korde
Kailash Korde
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,BEST,electric buses
Currently, BEST has six e-buses in its fleet. (Pratik Chorge/HT file photo)

With a nod from the Bombay high court (HC), the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking can soon add 80 electronic buses, including 40 air-conditioned ones, to its fleet.

Currently, BEST has six e-buses in its fleet. Surendra Kumar Bagde, general manager of BEST, on Monday said the policy-making body of the undertaking had received a conditional nod from the HC to get the e-buses on wet lease, which the workers’ unions were objecting to.

In wet lease model, a private operator pays for the driver and maintenance of the buses. While BEST is eyeing the model to reduce its operating costs, labour unions fear it would lead to staff cuts.

The union claimed they have also challenged the hiring of 450 e-buses on wet lease.

“The HC has given the nod to hire only 80 electric buses, but the court order states it will be subject to industrial court’s decision,” said Shashank Rao, leader of BEST Workers’
Union.

“We have placed an order for 80 e-buses. BEST will get a subsidy of ₹50 crore for these e-buses under FEMA, a scheme of the Centre. We will get more buses and more subsidy,” said Bagde.

For the past few years, BEST has been going through its worst-ever financial crisis.

Its fleet size dipped to nearly 3,200 from 4,700 in the past five years and the daily number of commuters dropped to 28 lakh.

On Monday, Sunil Ganacharya, senior member of Bharatiya Janata Party suggested BEST settle fuel, power purchase and staff salary in phases to avoid huge burdens at one time.

Other members suggested taking a fresh loan from the civic body on a low interest rate. Bagde told the panel he will consider the suggestions, as at present, the gap between their earning and expenditure is around ₹200 crore.

“Currently, we are forced to take a loan to repay an old loan,” said Bagde.

First Published: Apr 16, 2019 00:00 IST