BEST clears proposal to slash bus fares

Tickets to range from ₹5 to ₹20 for regular buses and ₹6 to ₹25 for AC buses

Updated - June 26, 2019 01:39 am IST

Published - June 25, 2019 05:42 pm IST - Mumbai

The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) took a major step towards reducing the fares of bus services across the city.

In a special meeting held by the BEST committee on Tuesday, the resolution to lower fares was passed unanimously by all members.

As per the new fare structure, tickets will range from ₹5 to ₹20 for regular buses and ₹6 to ₹25 for AC buses. The fare restructuring was part of the reforms suggested by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in a bid to revive the beleaguered bus transport system.

BEST General Manager Surendrakumar Bagde said the proposal will now be sent to the BMC for approval and then to the regional transport authority. “The process will take around a month after which the new fares will be implemented,” he said.

The reduced fare is meant to attract people back to the city’s iconic red buses, which used to ferry nearly 42 lakh passengers daily around a decade ago. At present, only about 25 lakh passengers use the service daily, owing largely to its poor frequency.

The BEST is also in the midst of a fleet expansion and will be inducting 530 buses in the coming six months on a wet lease basis. “Our overall plan is to increase the total fleet strength to 6,000 buses after which we aim to increase our daily passenger count to around 50 lakh,” Mr. Bagde said. He added that all new buses will have automatic door closing mechanism.

While the proposal was passed unanimously, several committee members raised questions about the execution of the plan to reduce fare. Senior committee member and leader of the opposition in the BMC Ravi Raja said that the in the short term the BEST’s daily revenue will decline by nearly ₹35 lakh, which would translate to around ₹9 crore a month. “BEST has accumulated losses of ₹2,300 crore, how is the administration planning to reduce the deficit?” he asked.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) committee member Sunil Ganacharya said that the proposal was being hurriedly passed and is bound to cause problems in the future. He urged the administration to seek a grant that would wipe out the cumulative losses instead of providing grants in ₹100 crore instalments.

Srikanth Kawthankar, another BJP committee member, stated that even at present the BEST didn’t have enough staff to operate all its buses. “If the administration wants to increase its fleet size to 6,000 buses, they will need to hire around 9,000 more conductors and procure 3,000 ticket machines, none of this has been mentioned in the proposal,” he said.

The BMC had promised to start providing a grant of ₹100 crore as soon as the BEST implements reforms which included restructuring the fare and increasing its fleet size under the wet lease model. Yashwant Jadhav, chairman of BMC’s standing committee, said the merger of the two budgets will happen within one year and in the long term all buses in the city will be air-conditioned.

Yuva Sena leader Aditya Thackery on his first visit to BEST headquarters, said that in the future 500 electric buses will be inducted in the fleet. “We can explore new routes and focus on improving last mile connectivity to bring more people to BEST and reduce traffic on the road,” he said.

Mumbai 16/01/2019: Sunil Pandit driver with BEST getting in to bus as it start its service in city after nine days of strike.

Mumbai 16/01/2019: Sunil Pandit driver with BEST getting in to bus as it start its service in city after nine days of strike.

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