'Fragile' AC buses are hot potatoes for BEST
The air-conditioned buses operated by BEST undertaking are cold comfort for passengers and are burning a yawning hole into the administration’s coffers. Over the last four years, maintenance issues with the Cerita buses which have grown to 282 in number have been rising steadily. The vehicles suffered 1,202 breakdowns in 2012-13 (till October last year), compared to 638 in 2009-10.
According to an official document of BEST in possession of MiD DAY, the number of breakdowns and waiting period for repairs have gone up owing to lack of availability of spare parts. At times it takes three months to fix an air-conditioned Cerita bus that has malfunctioned.
“Every year we lose crores of rupees on these AC buses while hardly one per cent of our total commuters travel in them. Also, it takes hours on end for these vehicles to ply from south to north,” said BEST Committee member Bhaskar Khursange. Presently, BEST has 282 Cerita, two Ashok Leyland and six Volvo buses in its air-conditioned fleet. The Volvo ones are yet to be fully inducted.
According to officials, due to constant problems of maintenance and frequent breakdowns of mainly the Cerita buses, the number of commuters too has witnessed a decline. Because of these reasons, BEST has not only reduced the number of routes, but is also cutting down on the number of these buses. Since March 2013, the agency has eliminated three AC bus routes, taking down the total number to 25. “We are also removing 20 AC buses from the fleet,” said A Tamboli, spokesperson, BEST.
Sources say the demand for these buses on the east-west corridor namely on roads like Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road is better than on eastern and western express highways. The reason behind reducing the number of buses is that these have already completed five years since they were first introduced here in 2007.
Number of breakdowns in 2011-12
Number of breakdowns in 2012-13 (till Oct last year)
Number of breakdowns in 2009-10