Mumbaikars, you can blame BMC for the upcoming BEST bus fare hikes

If you are seething at the thought of having to pay more for your bus ride, you can blame the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The civic body’s apathy to suggestions made by the Brihanmumbai Electric and Suburban Transport (BEST) has forced the latter to implement a fare hike to save itself from financial doom.

The BEST incurs an annual loss of Rs 150 crore running Kinglong buses alone. File pic
The BEST incurs an annual loss of Rs 150 crore running Kinglong buses alone. File pic

In the budget presented for the fiscal 2014-15, the BEST had suggested that the civic body introduce a transport cess on property tax of 1-2 per cent. mid-day had reported on this proposal in July 2013 (‘BEST wants a share of Mumbaiites’ property tax’). The authorities wanted a share of the revenue generated to reduce losses and as capital for the transport division.

Similarly, they had also asked that octroi on crude oil be revised up to 3.25 per cent from 3 per cent. This marginal increase would have brought in additional revenue of Rs 225 crore, which could have been diverted to the BEST.

“The corporation didn’t approve these plans. Instead, they approved a postponement of fare revision to February 2015 and granted Rs 150 crore,” said a BEST official.

Until November the BMC had given Rs 37.5 crore. The rest is expected by March 2015. As a result, the BEST will now revise its fares upwards beginning February next year taking base fare from Rs6 to Rs 7 and then further up to Rs 8 in April.

Civic apathy
What is worse is that the civic standing committee chairman, Yashodhar Phanse, has skipped a series of vital budget meetings this week.The BEST committee is fuming over his absence at such a crucial juncture.

Phanse stated he was busy with other meetings and, hence, couldn’t attend. “We have asked the state government to provide us funds, so that we can get the BEST out of this mess,” he said. The BMC and the state government officials also met to discuss the issue yesterday morning.

BEST speak
“The fare hike is required to bring BEST out of its poor financial situation. We have asked for another grant of R150 crore from the BMC, so as to bring some relief to commuters,” said O P Gupta, general manager, BEST.

Bleeding royally
The white elephant for the loss-making BEST is its fleet of Kinglong buses. The BEST had procured 282 of them for more than Rs 460 crore. “Every year, R150 crore of the total losses incurred is only on these Kinglong buses,” stated O P Gupta, general manager, BEST. The undertaking spends R125 per kilometre on each vehicle, earning only Rs 40 per kilometre.

Officials blamed lack of planning while purchasing the buses, and lamented the huge maintenance burden they came with. Of the total 282 Kinglong buses, two were gutted in a fire. The BEST recently auctioned 20 of the buses for their shoddy quality. Sources said that every month, at least 30 per cent of these buses go for maintenance.

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