The cherry red buses operated by the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) once raised spirits of commuters on the city’s roads. But over the years, that seems to have been replaced with a kind of dread, thanks to the long history of accidents involving them.
At least 15 people have died since January this year, after being hit by BEST buses, and 417 have been injured, say statistics obtained from the Undertaking. The figures only confirm the deteriorating public perception of the buses.
Motorists are often heard complaining that BEST drivers persistently honk, even when vehicles have stopped at traffic signals. Traffic policemen also asserted that BEST drivers often breach traffic signals and brazenly disobey speed limits. “BEST drivers are quite unruly when it comes to following traffic rules,” said a senior traffic policeman, on condition of anonymity.
The BEST administration however, claims that the number of it’s drivers involved in accidents is low, compared to that in other states. The figures beg to differ — last year, the BEST administration set up enquiries against 4,870 errant bus drivers. This is quite substantial, as nearly 12,834 drivers ply on the Undertaking’s fleet of 4,700 buses, covering around 6.72 lakh km per day.
“The administration needs to improve safety norms and make punishments stringent for drivers so that it acts as a deterrent to rash drivers,” said Dilip Patel, BEST member and former chairman.
Even passengers complain that bus drivers don’t stop at designated bus stops and often halt crowded buses far away from the bus stops.
“We not only have to run to board the bus, but many times the conductor rings the bell much before we are able to board,” said Priya Singh, a frequent commuter.
Despite the fact that BEST ferries nearly 40 lakh passengers every day, who fetch them a whopping Rs 2.88 crore, there seems to be a complete disregard towards them, said another disgruntled passenger.
“In case of a fatal accident, the driver is suspended until further enquiry,” said N Walawalkar, spokesperson for BEST. Officials also claimed that they are still the best government bus service when compared to other states.
No of people who died since January this year, involving BEST buses
April 6: A speeding BEST double-decker bus toppled onto a two-wheeler in Bandra (East) and killed the rider July 30: 15 school kids were injured after the school bus collided with a BEST bus at Nahur March 19: 13 people were injured in two different bus mishaps at Powai and Dadar