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BEST solutions to overcome crisis: Link business hubs to Mumbai suburbs, get 800 buses on lease

The budget faces a deficit of Rs880.88 crore if the the BEST doesn’t adopt the proposed reforms.

mumbai Updated: Oct 11, 2017 09:09 IST
Kailash Korde
Kailash Korde
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport,BEST bus
BEST is the second largest mode of mass transportation in the city.(HT FILE)

Leasing 800 buses, including 400 mini-buses to wade through congested city roads, adopting transport management system to give real-time information of buses to commuters and connecting business hubs like Bandra-Kurla Complex with suburbs through hybrid electric buses are among the measures the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking has come up with to revive the iconic bus service.

These steps are part of the BEST’s 2018-19 budget that was presented by its general manager Surendrakumar Bagde to chairman Anil Kokil. The budget faces a deficit of Rs880.88 crore if the BEST doesn’t adopt the proposed reforms.

Bagde’s budget proposes taking 800 buses on wet-lease (in which supplier arranges buses and drivers) — something which is being strongly opposed by employee unions for the fear of job loss. The 800 buses include 400 wheelchair accessible buses and 400 mini-buses which would easily wade through congested city roads. Smaller buses will reduce travel time and attract more passengers to the BEST, the transport experts have been pointing out.

Besides wet lease, Bagde has proposed implementation of Intelligent Transport Management System to provide real time information of buses to passengers waiting at stops, app-based pay-and-park scheme at BEST depots for revenue generation, implementation of remote meter reading project to reduce time in power bill delivery and bring down expenditure, among others.

Bagde said they have already issued a tender to hire 450 buses on wet-lease and another tender for the remaining 350 buses would be issued soon. Interestingly, BEST panel had rejected administration’s proposal of wet-leasing 100 mini buses, last month.

BEST is the second largest mode of mass transportation in the city that ferries 30 lakh commuters every day on 504 routes by operating 3,500 buses. The century-old body is going through the worst ever financial crisis with more than Rs1,000 crore losses from transport wing. For improving this situation, BEST has proposed various reforms, which includes fare hike for longer distance, taking buses on wet-lease, freezing dearness allowance, cancelling allowance and voluntary retirement among others. The proposal awaits BEST committee’s approval.

In August, HT had carried a series of ‘Best Bachao’ stories highlighting the issues the undertaking faces with experts’ suggestions.

Bagade suggested that the deficit will drop to Rs 228.21 crore if the reforms are allowed. “If we implement the reforms and make some changes, we can substantially reduce the budget deficit,” he said.

The opposition, however, took strong objection to the budget while BEST committee has yet not cleared the 2017-18 budget and revised estimates for 2016-17. Highlighting that it was an “unprecedented event in the history of BEST”, Sunil Ganachayra, senior BEST committee member said the budget was incomplete as the administration has used ifs and buts language in it.

“It cannot be called a budget since there is no mention about fare hike in it when the administration has proposed it,” Ganacharya said. Another senior member of BEST panel Ravi Raja said the onus of approving budget lies with the ruling party. “How has the administration spent, if the budget was unapproved?” he questioned.

First Published: Oct 11, 2017 09:07 IST