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Sunday, Oct 20, 2019

Contractor slams brakes on BEST plan to get 400 AC buses by November

The move, at a time when BEST is struggling to get more AC buses on the road, will disappoint commuters. With inadequate number of AC buses, BEST won’t able to launch its new AC bus routes.

mumbai Updated: Aug 29, 2019 06:23 IST
Kailash Korde
Kailash Korde
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
A decade ago, BEST had 290 AC buses in its fleet, but its undertaking discontinued the service from April 2017 amid heavy losses.
A decade ago, BEST had 290 AC buses in its fleet, but its undertaking discontinued the service from April 2017 amid heavy losses. (Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times)
         

The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) will be able to add only 200 small (mini) and mid-sized (midi) air-conditioned (AC) buses to its fleet, instead of the earlier plan of 400. As, one of the two contractors who were to give 200 AC buses each on lease to BEST has backed out.

On July 9, the day when BEST slashed its AC and non-AC bus fares, the policy-making body of the undertaking – BEST committee – gave nod to hiring of 400 AC buses from two contractors. At the time, BEST general manager Surendrakumar Bagde had informed the panel that the contractors will provide at least 100 buses by August, and all 400 by November. BEST plans to expand its fleet to 10,000 in the future.

However, one of the bus operators has sent a regret letter to BEST, expressing inability to lease out the buses due to rates. Despite repeated attempts, the public relations department of BEST did not reply to texts or telephonic queries. Bagde also couldn’t be reached for comment as he was busy in wage agreement negotiations.

Sunil Ganacharya, a senior member of BEST panel, said they have unofficially learnt about the development. “If this is true, the operator should be blacklisted from both BEST and BMC. Also, the administration should check the credibility of another operator before getting another jolt,” said Ganacharya. Consequently, BEST will barely be able to add 330 of the 530 more buses planned to its current fleet of 3,100 buses. Of the 330, 80 will be Centre-sponsored e-buses and 50 will be state-sponsored mini buses. BEST has to expand its bus fleet to 7,000 before October to fulfill the civic body’s pre-condition for monthly financial aid of ₹100 crore.

The move, at a time when BEST is struggling to get more AC buses on the road, will disappoint commuters. With inadequate number of AC buses, BEST won’t able to launch its new AC bus routes. It will also have to defer its plan to start a conductor-less point-to-point AC bus service, for which it has already received a nod from the state transport authority.

A decade ago, BEST had 290 AC buses in its fleet, but its undertaking discontinued the service from April 2017 amid heavy losses. Since then, BEST was operating only the regular bus service, until the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Developed Authority launched 25 AC buses on BKC route in 2018.

First Published: Aug 29, 2019 00:15 IST

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