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From Monday, only 30 passengers will be allowed, with a maximum of five standing, in a Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) bus as it restarts operations — the first public transport system in the city to resume services after remaining shut for three months owing to the pandemic. The administration said social-distancing will be strictly followed
BEST is the second-largest mass transport system in Mumbai after the suburban train network and ferries 30 lakh commuters daily.
It had shut services after the lockdown was announced, although a few buses were plying for ferrying staffers in essential services. From Monday, it resumes operation with restrictions in view of the Covid-19 outbreak
The normal sitting capacity of a BEST bus is 54 passengers. The 30 passengers allowed to board a BEST bus from Monday will include 25 sitting and five standing. One passenger each will be allowed to sit on the left and right sides of the bus. The second seat will be kept vacant. BEST has a fleet of 3,500 buses.
Initially, the administration has stated that nearly 2,000 buses will be introduced and later approximately 300 buses will be added every week after checking the increase in number of passengers.
“30 people will be allowed to commute in one bus. A proportionate number of people will be allowed to commute in double deckers and mini buses. The buses will be operational throughout the city,” said Manoj Varade, BEST spokesperson.
Transport experts have, however, pointed out that there is a possibility of social-distancing norms not being adhered to in the buses and have asked the administration to bring in school buses. During morning and evening peak hours, BEST buses are often jam-packed.
“There are chances of crowding in buses and social distancing norms not being adhered to. There are 6,000 school buses kept idle, which should be introduced along with BEST buses. The presence of buses on the road should be felt.” said transport expert Ashok Datar.
Meanwhile, suburban trains will remain shut. There are no plans to start local trains in the city immediately. More than 80 lakh passengers travel by local trains every day.
“There has been no discussion or plan on resuming local train services in the city as of now. It can be risky to commence local trains due to the easy spread of coronavirus,” said a railways official.
The BEST had earlier commenced its bus services for transporting essential workers in the city. 1,800 buses were being operated daily for transport of essential workers in the city.
Later, BEST air-conditioned (AC) minibuses were also converted into ambulances for transporting patients in the city.