With its ridership plunging to record lows as a whole and air-conditioned buses plying nearly empty, the BEST plans to approach both government and private companies to hire the latter to ferry their employees. It has also decided not to purchase any more AC buses for the time being.
Pressing the pause button: The BEST has also decided not to add to its current available fleet of 265 AC buses. The buses have been prone to breakdowns and have been the subject of several passenger complaints. File Pic for Representation
The fare hikes and the increasing number of private vehicles on the road pushed the number of BEST passengers down to 29.5 lakh in April — a drop of 2.5 lakh passengers as compared to March. The situation is particularly bad for the breakdown-prone AC buses, with the BEST not making a profit on any of the routes these ply on.
To address this, the undertaking has decided to approach corporate houses and government organisations and agencies to hire its AC buses, instead of the private buses hired by many organisations, to ferry their employees. They also plan to talk to five-star hotels and tourism agencies and ask them to consider using their AC buses to show their guests and tourists around the city.
Also Read: First-aid boxes in BEST AC buses are empty!
The BEST is also in talks with government agencies and organisations like SEEPZ and the Mumbai Port Trust. “We are in talks with these agencies. We can get good clientele for our AC buses this way,” said Jagdish Patil, General Manager, BEST Undertaking.
“In places like SEEPZ, for instance, where nearly 60,000 people work, private organisations can use our buses instead of private ones to ferry their employees to and from home or the SEEPZ administration can hire them to take employees of several such units to the nearest railway station,” said a BEST official.
The undertaking has also decided not to buy new air-conditioned buses for the time being. Officials say that ever since the BEST introduced the King Long and Cerita make of AC buses in 2007, they have been breaking down frequently and have been the subject of several passenger complaints.
The BEST had 282 buses, of which two had caught fire and 15 had to be sold as scrap because they had developed certain issues. This has left them with 265 AC buses. “On an average, around 110 AC buses are under repairs and maintenance and remain off the road,” said Ravi Raja, BEST committee member. This means that just around 165 buses ply on the road on any given day.
4,200: The number of buses in the BEST’s fleet, of which 300 old ones are in the process of being replaced
The number of BEST passengers has come down to 29.5 lakh, compared to nearly 40 lakh a couple of years ago. BEST officials say the rise in the number of private vehicles on the city’s roads, which has crossed 25 lakh, is a major reason for this.
“We are looking at the passenger numbers in previous years to gauge whether there is a drop. Usually, people go for vacations during the summer seasons and this could also be a reason for the fall in the current numbers,” said BEST General Manager Jagdish Patil.