Running smaller buses in Mumbai is BEST’s choice, say experts
Experts have hailed the decision of the loss-making Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking to hire 450 smaller buses, including 200 air-conditioned mini buses. The labour unions in BEST, however, opposed the move, fearing job losses. Although they have threatened a strike from February 15, they remain divided.
The BEST panel, the policy-making body, on Monday approved the proposal worth Rs650 crore as a part of reforms suggested by its parent body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Of these buses, 200 will be AC mini buses, 200 mini non-AC buses and 50 non-AC midi buses.
Introduction of mini-AC buses was one of the short-term, low-cost solutions discussed in HT’s ‘Unclog Mumbai’ series. Experts have supported the decision to introduce smaller buses, especially AC ones, as they can reach faster to their destination.
Jagdeep Desai, transport expert, said he had suggested operating smaller buses on ring routes connecting railway stations. “I had suggested about inducting smaller buses in fleets years ago. At that time, BEST replied saying that it was a public transport company and hence could not operate small vehicles,” Desai said. BEST phased out more than 250 AC buses owing to losses in April 2017.
According to BEST, these new wet-leased min and midi buses will have passenger capacity of 30 and 42 and these will start arriving in their fleet from July-August. Welcoming the decision, Rishi Agrawal, another activist, said that it will be interesting to see how Mumbaiites respond to these buses. GR Vora, citizen activist, said that these AC buses were totally unnecessary.
The staff unions said the move may pave way for privatisation and can lead to staff cut. The joint action committee of unions has threatened strike from February 15, appealing their members to go on strike voluntarily. Shashank Rao, leader of action committee, said that they are firm on the strike decision. BEST Kamgar Sena, the labour wing of Shiv Sena, which is also part of joint action committee, however, announced that it will stay away from the strike.
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