Mumbai: BEST decides to 'temporarily' pull the plug on loss-making AC buses

The AC bus service was started by the BEST in 2007.
The AC bus service was started by the BEST in 2007.

The BEST has finally decided to pull the plug on its loss-making, air-conditioned buses. The Undertaking decided to pull the plug on the enterprise after a meeting with Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta on Thursday. The services will shut down from April 17.

Also read: What a 'loss'! 50 AC buses to go off Mumbai roads in phases

The decision to stop the services was taken as the BEST hasn't yet paid salaries to its 42,000 employees for the month of March and the situation is heading to what it was in February. Employees received their February salaries in the last week of March. BEST sources blame the BMC for providing only lip service for funds and grants to get BEST out of its financial crisis.

Jagdish Patil, General Manager, BEST said, "We have decided to temporarily suspend all the AC bus routes. We were operating 202 AC buses of the total AC bus fleet to get people to use, but it didn't help much. Now, if the BEST Committee approves our proposal to suspend the AC bus services, then we will auction them. We have been facing annual losses of Rs 200 crore on its operations." BEST committee member Ravi Raja said, "These AC buses were like a white elephant, due to which the undertaking has been suffering heavy losses for years together."

The BEST has 266 AC buses in its fleet, which comprises a total of 3,800 buses. It has been losing Rs 82 crore annually in just maintaining the buses. The service has only 216 bus pass holders, and the entire fleet carries a meagre 18,000 passengers per day.

"BMC has given loan of Rs 1,600 crore and we have repaid Rs 700 crore on 10 per cent interest. Why can't BMC convert this loan into a grant? Moreover, why can't it make provisions for BEST in its budget?" questioned a BEST official.

Fuel-guzzling duds
One non-AC bus carries around 900 passengers per day, while one AC bus plies hardly 100 people.

The Undertaking has been facing severe flak for the procurement of these buses as well, which turned out to be fuel-guzzling duds and had almost double the number of breakdowns than the average non-AC bus.

The buses would break down every time they climbed a flyover. They were bought almost a decade ago at a cost of Rs 60 lakh each.

All routes lead to losses
Of the total 501 routes all of BEST's buses ply on, only two are the least loss making. The number of AC bus routes is close to 100 services everyday. mid-day, on April 8, had reported about BEST wanting to shut nearly 150 loss-making routes.

Trusha Rathod,
Kandivli West resident
'Though BEST is running in losses, I am sure that instead of just shutting down the service forever, they could at least manage to run AC buses during the summer'

Jyoti Dwidevi,
Vashi resident
'It is no less than a shock for me because I use the AC bus daily to travel to my office in Bandra. I don't know how I'll manage to travel in this summer.'

Imtiyaz Samnani,
Thane resident
'If BMC cannot run BEST's AC bus services in the city, then they should hand it over to a corporate firm. Government profit cannot outweigh public convenience.'

Vikas Tiwari,
Bhayander resident
'Looking at the rising temperatures in Mumbai, BEST should increase the number of AC buses, but they have totally stopped it to create more trouble for us.'

(With inputs from Silky Sharma)

266 Total AC buses in BEST's fleet
Rs 60 lakh Cost of each AC bus

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