Mumbai’s BEST plans to get 225 buses on wet lease
The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking that runs the public bus service in the city and its neighbouring areas is keen on wet leasing 225 buses including 100 air-conditioned mini buses, for a period of seven years.
The hired fleet would come at a contractual value of Rs305.95 crore for these seven years. The undertaking has moved this proposal to the BEST committee, its policy-making body.
The 225 buses include 100 AC mini buses, 100 non-AC mini buses and 25 midi buses. BEST sources said they were keen on hiring mini and midi buses because the smaller size buses can move faster on narrow and congested city roads, as compared to regular buses. The BEST has proposed to hire the buses on wet lease, in which the contractors provide the drivers and also pick tabs for the maintenance of the vehicles.
According to the proposal presented in front of the BEST committee, the lowest bidder is ready to supply mini AC buses at per kilometer rate between Rs 49 to Rs 50.45, mini non-AC buses at Rs 41 to 43.09 and midi buses at Rs 45 to Rs 47.30.
After two unsuccessful attempts, BEST had received three bids for supply of the required buses. Of those, the BEST administration has finalised the lowest bidder, but is now waiting for the committee’s nod for hiring the buses. The proposal states that BEST has a guarantee from the bidder that mini buses would run 3,500 kilometers per month and midi buses would run 4,000 kilometers.
The BEST administration and its parent body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) consider wet leasing of buses as a necessary reform for bridging the gap between income and expenditure of the undertaking. BEST is in the red with accumulated losses to the tune of Rs2,500 crore. The reforms suggested by BMC including wet leasing of buses can save it Rs700 crore.
The Shiv Sena-ruled BEST committee, however, has opposed the proposal terming it as a move towards privatisation of BEST. Hence, the committee has rejected the proposal of wet-leasing of 50 AC mini buses, earlier.
Therefore, it remains to be seen what stand the Shiv Sena dominated body takes on the fresh proposal. Recently, municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta had shot off a letter to the standing committee chairman, in which he had warned of dissolving the BEST panel and appointing an administrator to look after BEST affairs, if the committee failed to implement reforms.
BEST committee chairman Anil Kokil had said that they have accepted 82% of the reforms suggested by Mehta, excluding wet leasing of the buses and merger of Dearness Allowance in the salary.
Earlier, while presenting the budget estimates for financial year 2018-19, BEST had proposed to take 800 buses, including 400 wheelchair-accessible buses, on wet lease.