A day after reduced fares, BEST faces bus shortage

Updated: Jul 10, 2019, 09:13 IST | Rajendra B. Aklekar

After reducing minimum fare to Rs 5 from Tuesday, undertaking stares at severe bus shortage, may be unable to meet demand

A day after reduced fares, BEST faces bus shortage
The BEST undertaking has been facing an acute shortage of buses for a few years now. Representation Pic

With the BEST Undertaking reducing its minimum fare to Rs 5 beginning Tuesday morning, larger crowds were seen clamouring to hop onto one. The administration's fears, however, soon came true as it faced an acute shortage of buses to cater to the increased footfall.

The BEST committee on Tuesday also cleared a proposal for new buses. About 200 medium-sized new AC buses are expected to arrive in the city after August in phases and a total of 400 will be in by November 2019. The total target is to take the fleet to 10,000.

"The BEST is in a mess today because the tender to procure more buses has been delayed by 16 months and with the fare cut, the situation has turned worse," BEST committee member Sunil Ganacharya said.

The transport body has a fleet of about 3,000 buses as of today of which about 2,900 are in service daily.

"The tender issued for new buses has several exceptional clauses like they won't run with conductors, they won't run on Sundays and holidays and other such, making it a difficult deal for a public transporter. The contractor might run the buses for his private use on those days," opposition leader Ravi Raja said.

Ramesh Pawar
Ramesh Pawar

BEST General Manager Surendra Bagade said the tender for buses was first floated in February 2018. "The matter was taken to the court by the union and hence got delayed. We have been trying to improve the system for the past two years with technological advancement etc."

"About 6,000 buses have been ordered in the first phase. In the latest tender on June 12, bidders were requested for about 400 AC mini buses on a wet lease," Bagade added.

Clarifying on the wet-leased buses not running on Sundays and holidays, he said that every bus will require a day's maintenance and it may not necessarily be Sunday, but any one day as per our planning and suggestion to the company.

Commuters delighted with the fare drop

Commuters expressed their delight at the development, saying this was the first time in history that the government had reduced a public transport's fare.

Bipin Bhavsar, 64, who has been taking the BEST for years, called it "really good news."  Maitreya Sharma, 20, too echoed similar thoughts. "Trains can be inconvenient at times and the mega block makes it worse so lower bus fares certainly help." Adding on, Jignya Parab, 25, said, "It will be especially beneficial for people who cannot afford autos and cabs."

Bharat Pednekar
Bharat Pednekar

Others like Bharat Pednekar, 41, seemed unmoved by the development. "It's good news but I rather would recommend increasing the frequency of buses. I wait for hours for one."

Ramesh Pawar, 52, too seemed cynical. "It's just another government plan to make more people should take buses."

Dipali Kirpalani

AC buses finally full

Maitreya Sharma
Maitreya Sharma

The air-conditioned buses running at Bandra were all running packed like never before on the first day of the fare cut. The minimum fare of air-conditioned buses has been slashed to Rs 6.

The BEST has a fleet of 25 such buses and connecting BKC with Borivli, Powai and Thane. The BEST had been earlier trying to make these buses popular by sending emails to corporate houses in BKC but the response never picked up much. On Tuesday, they ran full house.

The yellow-coloured hybrid air-conditioned buses owned by the MMRDA and run on various routes, including the BKC have been running in losses. "The buses were running full today on the very first day at Bandra. The impact of lowering fare has been very good and it will encourage the use of public transport like never before," Surendra Bagade, BEST General Manager said.

10,000

Total number of buses the fleet will soon have as per BEST's target for the upcoming years

200

No. of medium-sized AC buses to arrive around August 2019

6000

No. of new buses ordered in the first phase

3,000

Total no. of buses BEST currently has

2,900

No. of BEST buses in service daily across city

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