Can BEST be revived?


Mumbaikars who once used to heavily rely on BEST services have switched to other modes of transport like autos, taxis, metro and monorail.

BESTThe Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) which had hiked fares twice this year have witnessed a decline in the number of passengers. Mumbaikars who once used to heavily rely on BEST services have switched to other modes of transport like autos, taxis, metro and monorail. Due to the poor frequency of the buses very few people wait for it and instead prefer share autos for commuting short distances. Today time is more important for citizens hence they are opting for other modes of transport.

Passengers are also unhappy with hike in minimum fares of best buses as one has to shell eight rupees for travelling 2 kilometres for ordinary buses. People have started walking for shorter distances after the fare hike a distance which they normally would have covered by commuting in BEST buses. Many private taxis and drivers of private cars pick up passengers waiting at bus stops, thus denying the BEST their legitimate passengers.

The condition of the transport undertaking has become so worse that the BEST management had to appeal to passengers to rely on buses instead of autos and taxis. At some places, the BEST depo officials were making announcements to inform passengers about the arrival of the next bus. Thus the undertaking will have to rethink its strategies to win back the lost passengers.

The BEST statistics indicate that its number of daily passengers has reduced from last year’s 40 lakh to 32 lakh in February 2015, when the first fare revision came in effect. The number went further down to 30 lakh, after the second fare revision was implemented on April 1. It has failed to plug its internal leakages, which has already caused losses of around Rs 2,400 crore to the public undertaking.

BEST along with the suburban railway services are considered as Mumbai’s lifeline. It is also the pride of Mumbai for its generally well-maintained fleet of clean buses.

Transport expert Ashok Datar said, “Only BEST can’t be blamed for drop in passengers. The authorities should earmark dedicated lanes for bus so that the punctuality improves and travel becomes faster. Unfortunately, we are yielding space to cars and taxis, which will prove worse for the city.”

“I have to reach my office on time so I can’t wait for 30 minutes to board a BEST bus. They have also increased the fares which have become at par with share auto tariffs” said Ankit Srivastava a Kandivali resident.

“BEST should have thought about improving its services which has become substandard nowadays. The seats are torn and roofs of buses leak during monsoons. Why should people pay the revised fares if BEST authorities are unable to provide better passenger amenities?” Hemant Sonar a Borivali resident.

“Emotional appeals are not going to work at all. BEST administration needs to bring down the minimum fare to Rs 6 to get back passengers. Some kind of incentive should be given to the fare or passes,” said Ravi Raja, one of the longest serving members of BEST committee.

The policy followed by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission and the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission has been to avoid cross-subsidy of other services by earnings from the electricity sector. The BEST is a unique case where losses from the transport sector are still being cross-subsidised by profits in electricity sector.

The BEST has a fleet of about 4,700 buses of which about 3,800 non air-conditioned buses and 400 AC buses have been in service in 2011. It has now dropped to about 4,200. With the objective of cutting losses, BEST operates only about 3,600 buses daily.