The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) has announced free bus rides for Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) affiliated schools. Senior citizens can avail fifty per cent concession in these buses. Only school going children can avail a free bus ride on their school route during the school timings by presenting a valid school ID card. A BMC official stated that the common goal of the civic body is to face-lift the education infrastructure as well the BEST.
Especially, in the 2020 BMC budget Rs.1,500 crores have been allotted for the cash-strapped BEST that aims a maximum number of office employees and school children should be using its service. They have continuously increased its fleet and frequency. It recently introduced two new routes i.e. Goregaon to Adarsh Nagar in Aarey Colony and Grant Road to J. Mehta Road in Malabar Hill.
The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) has also announced that around 80 per cent of its red buses will only run on short distances of up to 5kms. This move was taken as the authorities mentioned that a large number of buses are currently conductor less with data suggesting that there are currently around 212 conductor-less non-AC buses in BEST’s fleet.
BEST spokesperson Manoj Varade told media, “We run buses on 38 AC and 44 non-AC short-distance routes,” while adding that BEST has added 2 new AC bus routes that will run between 6 am to 10 pm. BEST has also added two more mini AC buses to its fleet. Some of the buses in BMCs fleet do not have a proper rear window enclosure.
BEST general manager Surendrakumar Bagde said, “It was temporary. The doors are now being covered and will be opened only in an emergency.” He said that officials had used ropes and sticks to cover the rear doors of some non-AC conductor less buses. It’s worth mentioning that BEST’s fleet now has a record 500 conductor-less buses. Bagde also said that 100 new AC mini buses will be added to the city’s routes within a week. However, not everybody is happy with this decision. “We will protest on the streets if need be. It is a serious threat to the work force where many conductors feel insecure,” said a senior member of the BEST Workers’ Union. For some context, the Mumbai Industrial Court passed an an order last week approving BEST’s conductor-less buses. “Our union will strongly protest against conductor-less buses as it is a threat to the workforce. Also, BEST should be maintaining a mandatory fleet of 3,337 buses [owned by it] as per the MoU signed with several unions and it should be recruiting new conductors,” union leader Shashank Rao had said then. There was earlier a proposal to employ 400 bus conductors on a contract basis from a “manpower service provider”, but this proposal too had been shot down. What needs to be seen is that through all these means, will the BEST be able to turn around its operations and attract more riders and become profitable.