Mumbai: Despite recovering Rs 1,700 crore, BEST hikes bus fares

They had collected the sum through Transport Deficit Loss Recovery from electricity consumers; say as electricity supply is part of BEST they could take the help of their customers

The loss-making Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) hiked its bus fares from April 1 for the second time in a gap of two months for offsetting their losses. Interestingly, the Undertaking has already recovered more than Rs 1,700 crore through electricity bills, which have transport cess as a component.

Over the past three years, the BEST had been charging something called Transport Deficit Loss Recovery (TDLR) from the 10-lakh electricity consumers belonging to the island city (Colaba-Sion/Mahim). This rate was Rs 1.54 per unit. The argument made by the BEST was that as electricity supply division is part of the entire Undertaking, they can take aid from their power consumers as well.

Representational pic

After the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) asked BEST to stop cross-charging electricity consumers for recovering losses of their transport division, they decided to stop in the year 2015-16. However in past three years, the BEST has recovered more than Rs 1,700 crore only through TDLR.

‘Need better buses’
“When they have recovered so much money from the public, the BEST should now improve the quality of buses. Also there was no need for a fare hike under such circumstances,” said Ravi Raja, former BEST Committee member. BEST officials had said that TDLR will be a major factor for getting them out of the financial crunch.

In spite of this, the condition of buses is the same. “Every month around 300 buses are down for maintenance,” said former BEST chairman A Dudhvadkar, who held the position till March 31, 2015. In fact, sources said that the buses operated on Fort Ferry and other ring routes are of poorer quality.

“These buses are run during daytime and on limited routes,” added Dudhvadkar. This financial year the BEST has set a budget of Rs 14,190 lakh for buying new buses. Every day there are complaints of bus breakdowns across Mumbai, especially on the highways.

These buses are either towed to the nearest depot or aren’t taken out and kept for maintenance that goes on for at least four days. Sources said that minor technical issues are ignored to prevent use of few buses on the road.

The buses that have technical issues frequently are the air-conditioned Cerita buses. The BEST authorities agreed that annually they lose Rs 150 crore by running these purple-coloured Cerita buses.

Transport cess in property tax?
The BEST authorities are talking to BMC to include transport cess in property tax. This would be up to 8 per cent, although the decision is yet to be taken on the same. This is an alternative for TDLR, which shall be removed from electricity bills and by the time transport cess in property tax comes into effect, sources said that it would be at least another two years.

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