Contract default spoils snack break of Mumbai-bound Shivneri passengers

Volvo buses not halting at food malls owing to disagreements between owners and MSRTC

The next time you board a Shivneri Volvo bus to Mumbai make sure you have tucked away enough to last the entire four-hour journey.  Shivneri buses from city to Mumbai have not been stopping at the designated Bikaner food mall near Lonavla as the mall owner has reportedly defaulted on contractually mandated dues to the transport body since last month.

Causing discomfort: Buses headed towards Mumbai have been stopping
at another small hotel in Lonavala which passengers claim has limited
facilities. Representation pic

Sources from the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) said since the past one month, the Mumbai-bound Shivneri buses have been stopping at a small hotel on the main exit to Lonavala city instead, where the variety of food is limited. 

When the service began a few years ago, the MSRTC had tied up with a few food malls and the latter was to pay them a certain monthly amount for every bus that stops at the mall. This amount was disputed by the mall owner a few months ago and he stopped making the stipulated payment. An official requesting anonymity said that the traffic department was then asked not to use the food mall until the matter was resolved.

The Pune-bound Shivneri buses, however, continue to stop at the designated food mall, which is just ahead of the Khalapur toll naka. Although MSRTC officials are tightlipped about the issue, an official pegged the amount to be around Rs 5 lakh. "Only passengers heading towards Mumbai have to face this problem for a few days. We have held meetings with the contractor and the issue will be resolved at the earliest. The small hotel at Lonavala is also decent and is used by other private operators as well," said the official.

The new hotel is near the Lonavala exit on the Mumbai-bound side of the Expressway and is located on the old Mumbai-Pune highway passing below it. In the meantime, passengers have asked the authorities to sort out the problem as soon as possible as the stop-gap arrangement is causing inconvenience to regular commuters.
"The new hotel does not have proper sanitary facilities and the food is also limited. Also, the bus has to take a U-turn to get back on the Mumbai-bound lane while leaving the mall which is quite laborious," said Nachiket Kulkarni from Mumbai who regularly visits the city.

Vidula Aarti, a student who regularly travels to Mumbai, said the MSRTC should have at least put up notices on their depots about the change in the halts. "Although the problem is genuine, people should not be given surprises and should be duly notified," she said. 

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