At 2,932, BEST fleet in city lowest in 15 years – ET Auto

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BEST officials admitted there have been delays in deliveries of new contractual buses, and at the same time, during every quarter, nearly 150 old buses which have completed their life span are being phased out.

With a strength of 2,932, BEST’s fleet continues to be at its lowest-ever for nearly 200 days now, leaving lakhs of daily commuters fuming as they travel in packed buses and wait in long queues at stops for as long as 30-35 minutes. The Mumbai Mobility Forum this week took cognisance of the issue and has dashed a petition to the BEST management demanding that it push for 1,000 CNG AC buses.The forum stated that the acute shortage of buses in Mumbai for the last several months was due to “serious delivery problems” of electric buses. This problem is not going to ease during the next two years, the petition said, adding that for 2024 and 2025, Mumbai will greatly suffer from shortage of buses — an important cause of increasing traffic jams with more private vehicles, especially two wheelers, coming on roads.

The current level of buses in BEST is one of the lowest since 2011, when it had 4,700 buses carrying 42 lakh passengers/day. The current fleet is stretched to cope with 35 lakh passengers/day.

The think-tank pointed out that AC CNG buses were available in a short delivery period from suppliers and cost less than INR 60 lakh/bus as compared to INR 1.8 crore for e-buses. It suggested that BEST can purchase these buses so that its own fleet which has diminished to 1,100 buses can go up to above 2,000 buses.

“The need is actually for 1,500 AC buses, but we must procure at least 1,000 CNG AC buses immediately. Further, the number of cars are increasing and are at an all time high — 20% this year, and that too mostly bigger SUVs,” said transport analyst Ashok Datar from the forum, adding that “the Metro 3 project in Mumbai will certainly ease traffic to some extent, but the pressure of increasing congestion in all parts of Mumbai requires buses, especially for the common man. As per global norms, cities need a bus for every 50,000 people, which indicates that we need 7,000 buses in Mumbai, going by that calculation. But as an urgent relief , we need 1,000 CNG buses now.”

Another forum member, AV Shenoy, said the petition mentioned that as per BEST agreement, it was to own 3,300 buses on its own. “Today, there are less than 1,200 BEST-owned buses. And hence, such urgent procurement of buses will help fulfil this obligation. But what is most important is to ease the traffic for common man, and therefore, BEST cannot wait indefinitely for expensive electric buses but buy AC CNG buses instead,” said Shenoy.

The petition further mentioned, “We should have these additional buses before monsoon. At the same time, we should continue our efforts to get electric buses. We need all types of buses, and can also consider a small number of diesel AC buses which have less emissions — with Bharat VI emission standards.”

Another forum member said, “The general manager, BEST, is trying his best to get more electric buses against old pending orders, but there is going to be a shortage of these buses for at least a year. In the absence of public transport buses, let us not get inundated with too many private cars and bikes on roads.”

BEST officials admitted there have been delays in deliveries of new contractual buses, and at the same time, during every quarter, nearly 150 old buses which have completed their life span are being phased out. As a result, phasing out of old buses with no new additions depletes the fleet.

BEST general manager Vijay Singhal said he has been in touch with the top brass of all private firms and has issued a diktat to them to deliver pending orders for e-AC buses in 2024. He admitted commuters were demanding more buses as the ridership had gone up to 35 lakh. Due to shortage of buses, the frequency on several busy routes has been badly hit, there are not enough buses to be deployed from 27 depots during rush hours and there are long waits at the bus stops, while at the same time buses are packed with passengers.

  • Published On Feb 26, 2024 at 02:35 PM IST

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