The state government is going big on the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking’s revival. At a meeting of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) on Monday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced the introduction of 25 hybrid air-conditioned buses within a year.
The first set of the hybrid AC buses — running on both electricity and diesel — will arrive in the next three months; the rest will follow suit in a year.
The buses’ USP: It will switch from dry batteries to diesel when it touches 30 kmph. “During this time, the batteries will start getting charged on their own and there is no need to provide for charging points at our bus depots,” said a BEST official.
The new buses will be the costliest such purchase ever — each costing R1.67 crore. The ministry of heavy industries will pay Rs 60 lakh for each bus and the rest will have to be borne by the MMRDA. BEST will operate and maintain them. Tata Motors will manufacture them at its unit in Goa.
The buses, provided by the MMRDA, will run on a dedicated, single lane through Bandra, Kurla and Sion. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and the traffic police will be tasked with demarcating the stretches near Bandra, Kulra and Sion stations, which are under their jurisdiction. “We will demarcate the road at the Bandra-Kurla Complex since it belongs to us. This is the first phase [of the project] and we will procure more buses later,” said UPS Madan, metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA.
Meanwhile, BEST has started phasing out its existing low floor buses running between CST and Churchgate. Sources said the quality of these buses has taken a beating in recent times — the structure is crumbling, the seats are decrepit, the support rods are damaged and the automatic doors are tied together with ropes.
At the MMRDA meeting, there were talks of the government bailing the flailing undertaking out of its financial crisis with a grant of Rs 3,000 crore. “We discussed the need for R3,000 crore to run BEST. It can be done while MMRDA plans the implementation of the Metro railway network in Mumbai,” said Yashodhar Phanse, chairman of the standing committee of BMC. It would mean that whenever the MMRDA allots money for a railway stretch, it will need to do the same for BEST.
Used during CWG
Hybrid buses were used for the first time as public transportation the 2010 Commonwealth Games — Tata Motors rolled out CNG-electric hybrid buses for the big-ticket extravaganza. A fleet of 10 hybrid buses of Tata is already in operation in Madrid, Spain, and they have together covered a distance of more than 1 million kilometre.