The red-coloured buses operated by the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) administration had been operating for decades have been an integral part of the island city’s rich and diverse history.
However, the part of history is fast diminishing. It has been learnt that the BEST undertaking has downsized it fleet of 4,700 buses to just over 4,400 buses and intends to send another 50 buses to scrap yard by June. Sources in the BEST said the undertaking wants to shorten the existing fleet by another 180 buses or so, in a phased manner by the year 2015, for buses that have been used for over 15 years.
A BEST official said, “We are doing this as per our fleet management plan. Several factors like stagnation of passengers using BEST services, several types of duties and taxes levied by the State and the Central governments and hike in fuel cost have forced us to take the decision.”
Officials claim that reduction in the fleet will not affect the carrying capacity, as number of passengers using BEST services has fallen from 45 lakh to 42 lakh in the last few years. These figures comprise ticket and pass holders. Official figures show that behind each bus the administration spends Rs 11,905, including manpower, running, fuel cost and maintenance.
However, the revenue it generates is a meagre Rs 73.80. “Our intention is to minimise the variable cost,” said another official. Of the 4,400-odd buses, about 2,950 run on CNG while the remaining operate on diesel. The number will remain dwindled once buses are sent to scrap yard, as the undertaking does not have plans to replenish the stock. BEST General Manager O P Gupta said, “We will bring down the fleet to 4,200 buses.”
Officials said that apart from poor revenue generation, finding parking space for the existing fleet at depots is a problem. They pointed out that currently a bus travels around 180 kilometres within the city everyday, which earlier was over 220 kilometres. Apart from this, traffic has become a matter of concern as it affects the entire timetable by introducing unwanted delays. The ugly traffic snarls also ups the fuel consumption, adding to the losses the undertaking suffers.