Mumbai: BEST's low fares will benefit only long distance travellers

BEST Committee approves new ticketing slabs where passengers will pay anywhere between Rs 2 and Rs 5 less

The railways are the lifeline of Mumbai and the buses of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) are the feeder system (part of the bigger transport network). Seventy-three per cent of BEST passengers travel up to 6 km every day. This means 21.60 lakh of the average 29.60 lakh daily passengers travel up to 6 km in the 4,043 BEST buses, as per figures in January 2016. Now BEST has introduced new stages in their ticketing format, which will reduce the ticket fares. But, this will not benefit the 73% passengers who form its base.

Yesterday, the BEST Committee approved new ticket stages wherein they shortened some slabs of distances at 8 km, 12 km and 20 km and people will pay Rs 2 to Rs 5 less depending on these stages. But lowering of fares will benefit only 27% of BEST passengers who travel longer distances.

Sources claim that the Undertaking’s total number of passengers have come down from 52 lakh in 2001 to 29 lakh, showing the dramatic downfall. The lowering of fares is an attempt to avoid this. “We are losing passengers drastically. The administration should have lowered the base fares by R2 and made R6 the made minimum fare, so that maximum people use buses,” said Ravi Raja, BEST Committee member.

In the real estate market, people normally prefer buying houses that are anywhere between 2 km and 5 km from the station. These are the people who use buses and share-rickshaws depending on the availability and punctuality, apart from fares. The rest are those who travel to their offices and want to escape the crowded local trains (see boxes for figures).

Lowered fares despite loss
The BEST has taken this step of altering the fare slabs despite the fact that they will lose R4.61 lakh everyday and will need 22,335 passengers more in their everyday count.

“Our business is to run feeder routes and till now we have been taking our passengers for granted. We know that there are several modes of transport and so we want to give an incentive for their travel,” said Jagdish Patil, general manager, BEST Undertaking.

It also seems that the Undertaking is seeking the loyalty of their passengers who have drifted over the years and are now giving incentives to buy monthly passes. They have lowered the monthly bus pass fare by Rs 20 to Rs 100, depending on the distance travelled. This is being done even though they will lose R4.81 lakh as deficit every month plus they will need 555 more people to translate into pass buyers from daily ticket holders.

The system of happy hours too is being introduced, wherein daily bus passes will be sold at half rates if bought between 11 am and 5 pm. Apart from this, the AC fares are being lowered by half again, though BEST will sustain a deficit of Rs 1.60 lakh per day and will need 2,400 people to take the AC buses. Now that these proposals have been passed by the BEST, the BMC will go through them in days to come.

Expected deficit
>> Rs 4.61 lakh (daily): After introduction of new stages

>> Rs 4.81 lakh (monthly): Lowering the monthly pass fares

>> Rs 1.60 lakh (daily): Slashing fares to half of AC buses

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