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Are Mumbai’s BEST buses falling apart?

Updated on: 14 July,2023 09:30 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Rajendra B. Aklekar |

Not just a string of recent accidents, but rattling public transport vehicles raise maintenance concerns, too

Are Mumbai’s BEST buses falling apart?

A seat rest that was broken and later fixed

A few months ago, there was a Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) bus plying the roads with a broken door, tied in place with ropes. Last month, a seat in a bus had broken and fell off. Citizens have been increasingly complaining about the deteriorating quality of BEST buses, putting up videos, images and complaints on social media, emails to authorities and other forums. While BEST officials have been prompt in attending to complaints, commuters and transport experts wonder what happened to the undertaking’s own maintenance practices and inspections.

A leaking roof wets the seats inside an AC bus
A leaking roof wets the seats inside an AC bus

“The doors of the bus on route number 243 in Malad were broken and held together with rope. Such is the grave condition of some of the buses,” said complainant Shreyas Anandpara. The bus was fixed later, “but why are such major issues attended to only after someone complains?” questioned other commuters. Roopa B, who had complained about the seat that had split in two and fallen on route 512, said, “Not even the bus conductor had bothered to pick it up to make way for commuters.”

There also have been complaints of water leakage in both AC and non-Ac buses during the monsoon. “Many window frames are jammed and the seats are broken, with sharp edges of frames hurting commuters, but they (authorities) bother to check and take up the issue only after a complaint is made,” commuter Sashikant Salkas said.

A grab handle that was broken and later fixedA grab handle that was broken and later fixed

“Is there no SoP for maintenance of buses? Are there no inspections or checks in the morning before the buses are taken out for public service? Leave aside cleanliness, but at least such major faults should be corrected. The irony is that most of the buses have huge images and posters of the chief minister and deputy chief minister pasted across them, but fail to meet basic passenger safety standards,” said commuter Avinash Kumar.

According to AV Shenoy, senior transport expert with Mumbai Mobility Forum & Mumbai Vikas Samiti, BEST had shown some signs of improvement after the bus fares were reduced and new buses were added under the wet lease scheme. “But now things seem to be sliding back to the situation earlier. The BEST management and BMC together should review the status and take quick steps to avoid further deterioration. What has happened to 900 AC DD buses announced with fanfare by the earlier GM? The absence of the BEST committee to ask questions to the BEST management could also be an issue,” he said.

A broken seat leg that was welded in place on route 4A broken seat leg that was welded in place on route 4

Jagdeep Desai, architect academician, founder trustee and chairperson, Forum for Improving Quality of Life in Mumbai, said, “Unfortunately, all our moveable assets are run on breakdown maintenance, all over India. Regular, periodic services and carry forward repairs are overlooked. They may be budgeted for and expenses are made, but nothing is seen on the vehicles. Upon breakdown, new buses are required and ordered. Look at any public and private transport system of any developed country.

It's compulsory to keep them in as good as new condition when they’re on the road. Not just for RTO passing, but always. We too must make this a rule,” said Desai. Meanwhile, BEST officials said that many of the buses in the fleet are on wet lease and maintained by respective contractors and that they will take up the issue of regular maintenance and upkeep.

A seat that had come off and fallen on the bus floor was later fixedA seat that had come off and fallen on the bus floor was later fixed

New swank AC bus becomes spittoon

A new AC double-decker bus had been found spoiled with its corners full of paan spit stains. Images and complaints have been posted on BEST’s social media handles and other complaint forums.

Paan spit stains inside the new AC double decker busPaan spit stains inside the new AC double decker bus

Though spitting is a public offence, no one takes it seriously and there is no one or way to monitor every move of the passengers. The complaint put up by BEST passenger and employee welfare NGO ‘Aapli BEST Aaplyachsathi’ has requested the undertaking to clean-up and take action.

No of AC double-deckers announced earlier

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