For once, the political parties seem to be on the same boat. Committee members from Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) representing various political parties are opposing the recent introduction of air-conditioned buses within city limits by Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC).
The members plan to take the matter up with the topmost authority in the state government. “We will be meeting the chief minister to lodge our protest,” said Nana Ambole, chairman, member of the BEST Committee from Shiv Sena.
In May, BEST suffered losses to the tune of over Rs 500 crore. The committee members feel that the introduction of AC buses by MSRTC on July 11 has dealt them a heavy blow. “It is BEST’s mandate to operate buses in Mumbai and its suburbs. The state government is making a mockery of the policies by allowing MSRTC to run services,” said Sunil Ganacharya, BEST member.
The members added that BEST is already running huge losses and is struggling to survive. “We are already facing losses in crores in the transport division. This would only add to the losses, as some passengers are sure to make use of the new point-to-point services,” said a BEST official.
Other members claim that the state government is not doing much in clearing their demands of removing the 15 paise surcharge from tickets, sparing them from paying toll, and several other demands.
“The state government is giving away lucrative routes to MSRTC. Their attitude towards us is step-motherly. In such a case, we will stop running our lossmaking routes,” said Kedar Hombalkar, BEST member from MNS.
The BEST has planned to curtail its fleet and has already brought down its fleet strength to 4,300 from the earlier 4,700. “The buses operated by BEST are in a poor condition and so these point-to-point services will be helpful. The BEST needs to improve the quality of buses if it does not want such competition,” said Shivji Singh, BEST member from Congress.
Meanwhile, Ambole also plans to take up other issues at the meeting with the chief minister, and is hoping for an appointment soon -- these include subsidies on fuel prices and relief from toll payment.
On July 11, the MSRTC started four AC bus services namely between BKC-Kandivli and Borivli-Thane. Until now they have received luke-warm response. If successful the other planned routes will be for SEEPZ, Lalbaug-Parel, MIDC, Marol and Navi Mumbai.