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Mumbai: BEST commuters to feel the heat as 25 AC bus services shut down

Losses, poor response led to the decision, says administration; BEST to refund pass-holders

mumbai Updated: Apr 14, 2017 01:27 IST
Kailash Korde
Kailash Korde
Hindustan Times
In 2016, BEST suffered a monthly loss of Rs6.86 crore owing to AC buses. (HT FILE)

Even as the city battles the heat, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking, which is going through a financial crisis, has decided to stop its 25 AC bus services starting Monday. Reason: poor response and losses.

This means the 266 purple AC buses in BEST’s fleet will no longer ply on city roads. The decision was taken at a meeting between Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief Ajoy Mehta and BEST general manager Jagdish Patil on Thursday.

In 2016, BEST suffered a monthly loss of Rs6.86 crore owing to AC buses.

The BEST panel, however, is irked with the administration’s decision to go ahead with the plan without their nod.

Sunil Ganacharya, a senior BJP leader, asked why the administration could not wait for three days to discuss the proposal in the committee meeting. “The administration has violated the norms,” he said.

Former BEST panel member Kedar Hombalkar said, “During an earlier discussion, the committee had argued that AC bus services cannot be discontinued in an international city like Mumbai. Why did the administration take the decision in a haste?”

The BMC and the state government should offer financial help to help BEST improve its financial condition, he said.

The BEST introduced about 290 AC buses on the roads in 2007, mostly of the JCBL Cerita model, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

The buses ran on 25 routes in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai. Frequent fires and noisy engines led to a drastic drop in the number of passengers.

Most of these buses ran either empty or with just a handful of passengers even during peak hours. The undertaking had earlier tried to auction the AC buses, but scrapped the plan as buyers offered a very low price for them. It also converted a few buses into non-AC buses, but that did not turn out to be economically viable either.

BEST tried to revive the services by bringing down the fares last year, but that too didn’t help

According to BEST, only 18,000-20,000 commuters travel on these buses daily, including 261 pass-holders.

BEST administration said that they will refund the remaining amount to the pass-holders. “AC bus pass-holders can travel on ordinary or limited BEST buses. Otherwise, they can seek refund of the remaining amount from the undertaking,” said Hanumant Gophane, BEST public relations officer.

First Published: Apr 14, 2017 01:27 IST