This week, State transport minister Diwakar Raote got a lesson in trivia when he learnt that The Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) runs 68 bus routes outside the island city and suburbs.

Diwakar Raote
Diwakar Raote 

Due to the colossal losses that the BEST bus service is facing — the revenue deficit is of nearly Rs 2.26 crore per day, according to RTI activist Anil Galgali based on a response to a query filed by him — the undertaking had requested the state government to waive toll for its buses plying outside Mumbai.

When sunday mid-day spoke to Raote on Thursday, he said, "BEST buses don't ply beyond greater Mumbai, so there is no question of waiving toll." This was the day he inaugurated the new Kurla Bus Depot, and in a chat with reporters agreed that a plan had to be thought up to haul BEST out of losses.

"Public modes of transport across the world are running in losses but BEST is in a real poor condition," he admitted. The number of passengers travelling by BEST has come down from 42 lakh to 30 lakh in the last five years, although the number of buses running the roads has increased to 4,200.

Though the government has waived the toll for Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation buses and other light vehicles, BEST continues to shell out toll at five Mumbai Entry-Points including Dahisar, Airoli, Vashi and two in Mulund.

The undertaking claims that its demand for a waiver has been long pending. Sources say BEST pays R9.5 crore annually as toll to the government for buses that cross the above toll nakas. "We run 68 bus routes outside Mumbai every day for which we pay toll," said a BEST official. BEST operates 498 bus routes in total of which 23 run to Thane, 28 to Navi Mumbai and 17 to Mira-Bhayander.