Today, the number of passengers has come down to less than 30 lakh.
Mumbai: While the railways are the city’s lifeline, Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) buses are the second largest mode of mass transport. But the red bus no longer holds the same importance it once did for commuters. In 2004-05, the BEST undertaking had 3,400 buses in its fleet and would ply 45 lakh commuters daily. Today, the number of passengers has come down to less than 30 lakh.
Ashok Datar, a transport expert who has been working with the undertaking to improve its performance, said BEST buses face challenges like traffic, peak hours and narrow bus lanes, which contribute to their lack of success in being able to provide better services.
“The BEST not only covers South Mumbai but has a lot of its services going in and out of the suburbs. So BEST should ideally halt its services into the suburbs. It might not be a very popular decision but I think that the BEST should keep away from the outer suburbs. They should terminate the services to places like Thane, Vashi, Goregaon and Dahisar, and ask the local bodies to take care of it,” he said.
While presenting the BMC budget for the year 2017-18, civic chief Ajoy Mehta had admitted that the financial position of BEST is precarious and is a cause for great concern. “The profitability of the Electricity division has been declining drastically. The transport division has been making huge losses. Accumulated losses of the undertaking are over Rs 2,148 crore. Besides a depreciation fund entry of Rs 1,717.68 crore has no cash to back it up,” he had said.
“Urgent and drastic measures are required to restore the undertaking to its erstwhile position of financial robustness. Unless stern measures are taken, there is a huge probability of the undertaking imploding under the weight of its accumulated liabilities. Amongst the possible measures that could be taken for financial revival are rationalisation of routes, efficiency of use in fleet of buses, wet-leasing of buses, rationalisation of the staff, compulsory or voluntary retirement schemes, abolition of subsidies, renegotiation of agreements based on current financial crisis and revamping of procurement policies, strict auditing and accounting policy,” said Mr Mehta.