Mumbai: BEST to wage war against monsoon with a troop of old buses

With 32 per cent of the undertaking’s fleet over 10 years old, it faces a challenging monsoon ahead

With the monsoon just a month away, all government agencies are bracing up to win the fight of keeping Mumbai up and running despite the challenges rains throw at them. But, the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking, though ready, will stand in the war zone with 32% 10-year-old buses as troopers.

Will the buses be able to survive the mayhem of the Mumbai monsoon? Only time will tell. File picWill the buses be able to survive the mayhem of the Mumbai monsoon? Only time will tell. File pic

Sources in BEST said they are carrying out pre-monsoon preparations, but these old buses will prove to be a problem. In old buses, chances of corroded roofs, water seepage, non-functioning wipers and breakdowns during waterlogging go up.

As per data released until March 31, the undertaking has 3,963 buses, out of which 1,233 are in the age group of 10-11 years, which is nearly 32% of the total fleet. These buses barely have road time remaining to face an expectedly strong monsoon.

“We realise that the bus fleet is old, but then every depot is repairing buses like they do every year during the monsoon. The wipers have been changed, the brakes checked and other jobs are being done,” said Hanumant Gophane, spokesperson, BEST Undertaking.

After the oldest, come the buses that are 6-7 years old, which is half of the permissible age limit. BEST uses 800 of these buses. “Our buses’ average age stands at 9.10 years. It is true that due to the old buses in our fleet, there are delays and constant breakdowns and during the monsoon this may happen more,” said a senior BEST official.

The youngest buses in the fleet, numbering to 268, are 5-6 years old.

BEST officials said by the end of March 2015, the bus fleet stood at 4,167 buses and out of these, only 112 buses fell in the age bracket of 10-11. So, the majority of buses that are being called this year were bought during 2006-07, the officials added.

Also, in the last four years, the total number of buses operational for Mumbaikars has gone down, which is proportionate to the decreasing number of commuters. From a good 4,336 buses in 2012-13, the number of buses dipped to 3,963 buses in 2015-16. The drastic fall in the total number of daily commuters ferried by BEST buses has also touched 29 lakh from 35 lakh in around five years.

In the last few months, BEST scrapped 200 buses and 52 loss-making routes, on which there were political repercussions. After the transport division experienced a loss of Rs 600 crore, the administration buckled and reintroduced 33 routes. It is now keeping tabs on these routes as well.

200
The number of old buses BEST has scrapped in the last few months

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