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Mumbai’s BEST all set to get 40 eco-friendly smaller buses

Currently, BEST has a fleet of more than 3300 buses, including four electric buses. Electric buses are eco-friendly as they don’t emit gases and make less noise

mumbai Updated: Feb 26, 2018 23:05 IST
Kailash Korde
Kailash Korde
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,BEST,eco-friendly
Currently, BEST has a fleet of more than 3300 buses, including four electric buses. Electric buses are eco-friendly as they don’t emit gases and make less noise.(HT FILE)

With the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) panel’s nod, the city is all set to get 40 smaller or midi electric buses.

The panel approved the plan under a scheme of the department of heavy industries, subject to directive of a court, where unions have challenged the panel’s decision of hiring 450 buses, including 200 mini AC buses, on wet lease.

The transport authority will get the buses from Goldstone Infrastructure Limited, which has supplied four such buses, each costing around Rs1.61 crore, in the past. The contract is worth Rs73 crore and BEST will get these buses on wet lease (where the contractor will take care of the expenses of the driver, fuel and maintenance) for seven years. “We will send the work order to the Centre before February 28, after which they will disburse the money,” said Surendrakumar Bagde, general manager of BEST.

The contractor will supply 25% of the total buses within three months and the remaining within six months. According to the proposal, BEST aims for a monthly operation of 4,000km at the rate of Rs51.75 a km and Rs55.17 a km for non-AC and AC electric buses, respectively.

Currently, BEST has a fleet of more than 3300 buses, including four electric buses. Electric buses are eco-friendly as they don’t emit gases and make less noise. The proposal states the buses will help reduce their carbon footprint too.

During the discussion, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) objected to the proposal, saying the labour unions have already challenged the panel’s earlier decision in an industrial court, which has stayed the process till the next hearing in March. Ruling Shiv Sena members, however, insisted the proposal be cleared as the deadline to issue work order is nearing. Ravi Raja, a senior Congress member on the panel, asked BEST administration to submit a report on the electric vehicles that were procured earlier.

Shashank Rao, leader of a labour union in BEST, said they will oppose the proposal of wet leasing of buses. “If the Centre has given a subsidy, BEST should purchase the buses on its own. Why is it handing over the amount to private companies,” he asked.

Backdoor privatisation of BEST is on: Sharad Pawar

Terming the measures taken by the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking -- wet leasing and rationalisation of staff – backdoor privatisation, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said BEST services were a must in Mumbai.

Facing mounting losses, the BEST administration this month cleared the proposal to get 450 buses, including mini, midi and air-conditioned (AC) buses, on wet lease at a cost of Rs650 crore, as part of the reforms suggested by its parent body, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

“Today’s rulers are interested in privatisation and contractual labour. BEST is needed as it provides cheap transport to the poor and working class,” said Pawar, at an event in Mumbai.

Recounting the days when he was the chief minister of the state, Pawar said, “After the 1992 riots, when I came back to the state, things were not normal. There was hardly anyone on the streets. I ordered BEST buses to start operations. This gave confidence to people that everything was normal. BEST has a psychological connect with the people of Mumbai.”

Elaborating on the operations after the 1993 bomb blasts, he said, “The bomb blasts took place on Friday. By Monday, BEST buses were running on the streets.”

First Published: Feb 26, 2018 23:05 IST