It’s regular to see a BEST bus stranded in the middle of the road, with a tree branch sticking out from its windows, the unofficial symbol of a breakdown. The Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) are now looking to reduce the regularity of such incidents.
BEST authorities are looking to upgrade the batteries and tyres, which are vital to keep the vehicles in motion. Presently, BEST buses use four batteries of 6V each. The BEST is among the last few public transport bodies in the country that run their buses on 6V batteries.
For the first time, 12V batteries will be introduced in the vehicles. Sources in the BEST claim that presently, there are no major companies that even manufacture 6V batteries. “We have to go for lesser-known companies, whose brands are not even heard of in the market,” said Kedar Hombalkar, a BEST committee member.
Officials say that in the current situation, whenever tenders are called for fresh batteries, very few companies turn up. At times, the products even don’t run for the stipulated number of days. This results in sudden breakdowns on the road. “There is no technical upgradation made in these 6V batteries. So we are making provisions for fitting 12V batteries,” said a senior official from BEST.
According to officials, the average life of a battery used by BEST buses is at least 990 days. If the battery runs out earlier, fines can be levied on the manufacturer.
“We are opting for a pilot project wherein 12V batteries will be fitted inside buses,” said O P Gupta, general manager, BEST. Initially, 280 pieces of the fresh 12V batteries will be procured, with each unit costing around Rs 8,000.
Each bus will be modified to run on two 12V batteries, instead of four 6V batteries. As part of the pilot, 140 buses will start running on 12V batteries soon. Officials said that if the pilot project produced desirable results, the batteries would be introduced in the fleet of around 4,000-odd buses, over the next four years.
This would also help bring in major battery manufacturers, which will further reduce breakdowns. Another major reason for breakdowns is that tyres get deflated too quickly. According to members of the BEST committee, this happens on a regular basis, taking a toll on passengers, and affecting the bus schedule.
The tyres get deflated because the machines used to fill the tyres with air are not in working condition. “The nitrogen machines used to pump in air into the tyres have not been working for nearly two years. This is mainly at Magathane and a few other depots,” said Bhaskar Khursange, BEST committee member.
Because the nitrogen machines are not operational, the bus tyres are filled with regular air, which cannot sustain the immense pressure of the overcrowded buses.
When asked about the problem, O P Gupta said, “I will have to look into this issue.”
Average number of days that the batteries of a BEST bus last
Number of 12V batteries to be procured
Number of buses to have the fresh set of 12V batteries