The iconic red-coloured buses of the Brihanmumbai Electric and Suburban Transport (BEST) are an integral part of Mumbai. But, citizens are slowly giving up travelling by BEST buses, a recent report published by BEST revealed.
The recent quarterly figures show that, in the month of June, the already loss-making BEST is incurring further losses, while the number of passengers has also reduced.
The undertaking has curtailed its fleet by more than 360 buses, as compared to June 2012. BEST officials claim that there was an excess of buses in their fleet, and this step was taken to rationalise their usage and optimise utilisation.
Among these buses, diesel buses were the ones that were scrapped in majority. The number of diesel buses in the fleet has come down from 1,554 to 1,223. The rest of the fleet runs on CNG.
However, officials claim that fleet utilisation has improved. According to them, presently, 90.99 per cent of its fleet is used. In June last year, the number was 85.13 per cent of the total fleet.
On the other hand, the number of people travelling on BEST buses has dropped. This is evident, based on the number of tickets, daily passes and seasonal passes sold by the BEST.
In June 2012, 1,120.09 lakh passengers travelled in BEST buses. This number has reduced to 1,038.35 lakh in June this year. Last year, each bus ferried around 967 people everyday. This year, the number of people ferried per day has come down to 913.
One of the chief reasons for the losses is the inefficient staff and manner of functioning.
The other reasons for the losses are the ever-increasing traffic on the roads, slow-moving drivers, maintenance issues, and accidents.
Steeped in debt
While it is already facing a mountain of losses, the BEST is taking more loans.
This is to pay employee salaries, to pay for power purchased from Tata Power, and even for repaying their earlier loans. Even though fares have gone up in the last few months and expenditure on fuel has reduced, the undertaking is unable to cull their losses.
With the drop in the number of tickets sold, the chief source of revenue for the BEST, the picture seems quite gloomy.
Rs 1,200-1,500 cr
The amount in fresh loans taken by BEST to clear earlier debts, pay salaries to employee and other expenses