BEST administration faces fire from committee

Members highlight issues faced by passengers, staff due to new conductor-free buses policy

Members of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) committee criticised the administration on Thursday for its shoddy implementation of its conductor-less bus operations, highlighting issues that both staff and passengers face due to the new policy.

Srikant Kawthankar, a committee member from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said conductors stationed on bus stops in the middle of the route do not have any access to public toilet facilities. “In running buses, conductors are able to go to bus depots to relieve themselves. In areas like Charkop, there are no public toilets. What is a conductor to do in such places? Their shift typically is for around five hours,” he said.

Highlighting the recent injury to a bus conductor on a double-decker bus, Sunil Ganacharya, another committee member from the BJP, said the move to have only one bus conductor is a safety risk to passengers as well. “The administration should give the committee a report highlighting the revenue generated from these conductor-less operations,” he said.

A committee member from the Shiv Sena, Anil Kokil, said after the introduction of wet lease buses, there was an apparent surplus of drivers at Mumbai Central and Colaba depots and the drivers were deployed across bus stops to aid conductor-less operations.

‘Skipping stops’

Committee members also said point-to-point buses often skip stops even when they are empty, leaving several passengers fuming.

General manager Surendrakumar Bagde said he would look into all the concerns and take the suggestions of the committee into consideration. “These efforts are going towards providing affordable and efficient bus transport to passengers and should also help the administration in its implementation,” he said.

At present, BEST is running conductor-less operations on 86 routes, of which 45 have buses running on wet lease. These routes have 325 mini air-conditioned buses running on them.

On the remaining 41 routes, 224 BEST-owned buses are deployed, which include a mix of full-length single-decker, midi and double-decker buses. Committee members told the administration that it should limit the conductor-less operations only to wet leased buses and continue regular operations on its owned fleet.

‘Cost cutting’

BEST uses nearly 209 conductors on the 41 bus route. Officials said the number would double if they were to assign one conductor on single-decker and two on double-decker buses. “For the double-decker buses at Bandra Kurla Complex, we needed to deploy 63 conductors. Under the new arrangement we need 37, which reduces our operational costs,” a BEST official said.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 1:59:39 PM |

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