Over 24-lakh passengers travelling short distances, using the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) operated buses, will have to shell out more from March 2014, as the BEST committee approved yet another fare hike yesterday. This is the fourth hike since 2010. Those travelling short distances (between 2 km and 4 km) comprise 60 per cent of the total 40-lakh passengers using BEST bus services daily.
As per the new fare chart, the minimum tariff has been revised to Rs 7 against the existing Rs 6. The committee also revised the kilometre slabs in multiples of two. Now, the fares will be based on slabs of 2 km, 4 km and so on. BEST General Manager O P Gupta said number of commuters travelling within 2 km to 4 km was very high, and by targeting them the BEST administration would be able to make an additional Rs 130 crore. Several BEST committee members pointed out that it would be unfair for passengers travelling short distances to pay extra in comparison to those travelling longer routes.
Sources in the BEST said the hike was essential and inevitable for the undertaking to reduce the losses it has been incurring. Now that the BEST committee has approved the hike, it would now be tabled before the civic body’s Standing Committee and General Body for approval, following which it will require State Transport Authority’s nod. The entire process is expected to take three to four months. “This is the first step. It can’t be implemented before March 2014,” said Gupta.
The BEST is expected to get Rs 60 crore from the Centre under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). The funds were stuck after the Centre raised a four-point objection to the overall functioning of the BEST administration. The bones of contention were: 1) Purchase cost of buses, 2) BEST not adhering to the specifications laid down by the centre, 3) Operation of buses on airport premises and 4) Fire inside new buses, which raised doubts over their quality.
Officials said while the BEST purchased each single-decker bus for Rs 54 lakh, other public transport undertakings paid Rs 30 lakh. The revised amount has now been fixed at Rs 50 lakh. Another blooper that delayed the funds was that the body manufacturing buses for BEST, flouted norms laid down by the centre.
The urban development department also disapproved of the undertaking’s decision of operating 20-odd buses on the airport premises. Later, the number of services was reduced. The BEST is looking at restructuring its fleet of existing buses at 4,200. This would be the case even after the undertaking purchases new low-floor, better buses, under the JNNURM by 2015-16. Once the new buses are commissioned, the undertaking plans to scrap over 400 buses in the following months to rationalise the cost.
‘Customer care service a farce’
Blaming the authorities for their poor services, Kedar Hombalkar, BEST committee member said, “Those attending to people, ask them to come after two or three days. This happens regardless of the fact that a person has spent hours in the queue waiting for his turn.” BEST set aside Rs 124 crore for customer care centres this year.