Not the BEST time: Dug-up roads slow down buses

With different authorities, including the BMC, digging up nearly 300 roads across the city for repair and other work, BEST bus drivers are finding it increasingly hard to keep up with their schedule

The delayed services of the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking is frustrating both commuters at the bus stop and bus drivers behind the wheel. Officials say BEST buses are finding it increasingly challenging to stick to their schedule when nearly 300 roads across the city are dug up for some work or the other.

A long wait: Dug-up roads have been hurting the on-time performance of buses and even reducing their frequency. File pic

“When half of a road is shut for work, it causes a bottleneck, slowing down traffic. This is happening on many roads across the city, causing problems for our buses and making them reach their destinations late,” said a BEST official.

On an average, a bus makes four to five trips a day — a number that increases or decrease depending on the distance covered, traffic conditions and, increasingly, on the condition of the road. “Buses have been running late for some time, but we understand that the work on the road is important as well,” said O P Gupta, general manager of BEST undertaking.

Different agencies, including the BMC, have dug up parts of close to 300 roads in Mumbai. “We are constructing new roads and repairing old ones. Several other public and private agencies are also carrying out work like laying power cable lines, telecommunication lines, gas pipelines and repairing storm water drains and sewerage pipelines,” said a civic body official.

Other factors
BEST officials say staff remaining absent from work and the reduced size of the fleet are the other reasons for the schedule being upset. The undertaking had recently introduced a new work schedule, increasing the working hours, which has not gone down well with the employees.

“At least 12% of drivers and conductors are absent. In addition, the new buses under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) have not come in yet, while we have already started scrapping old buses,” said Kedar Hombalkar, a BEST committee member. BEST plans to scrap close to 100 buses in the coming months.

Fewer takers
Over the last couple of months, the undertaking has been observing a downward trend in the number passengers using its service. The number of passengers using BEST buses has come down from 1,038 lakh in June last year to 998 lakh this June 2014. Even the number of passengers per bus every day has come down from 913 in June last year, to 891 this year, leading to the revenue dropping from Rs 107 crore to Rs 102 crore. 

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