BEST anniversary: From horse-run trams to AC buses, Mumbai’s bus transport legacy on display

At least five decades after the last tram chugged on Mumbai’s streets, Mumbaikars got another glance at the relic from the past Saturday.

Written by Neha Kulkarni | Mumbai | Published:August 7, 2016 12:58 am
As BEST completes 69 years of service, models of buses on display at an exhibition organised at Ravindra Natya Kendra, Dadar. (Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran)

At least five decades after the last tram chugged on Mumbai’s streets, Mumbaikars got another glance at the relic from the past Saturday. From horse-run to electric trams and trolley buses, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) gave Mumbaikars a glimpse of a rich past at an exhibition held at Dadar’s famous Ravindra Natya Mandir.

The BEST is marking its 69th year in service. The utility, which runs buses and supplies power to the island city and parts of the suburbs, first came into being on August 7, 1874. The exhibition also attempted to capture the transition from the past to the present by displaying air-conditioned buses, which are in use currently. The exhibition kicked off Saturday and will run till August 7. Visitors on Saturday also appeared interested in the three-dimensional architectural models of various transportation tools.

There was also a lesson in history. “The journey, so far, for the BEST has not been so easy,” said Yatin Pimpale, a BEST employee and the brain behind the exhibition. “Trams were reverred by enthusiasts then, but there were others who created trouble by deliberately laying pebbles along the track and blocking the tram service,” he said.

Trams were then later converted to electric-run buses and then double-deckers. “With advancement of technology, even the carrying capacity of the transportation model improved. From 25 passengers in one service at that time to double that number now, the BEST has come a long way. With increase in congestion and routes becoming shorter over the time, there was an effort in making the bus models more compact,” Pimpale said.

The BEST currently runs about 4,500 buses covering 500 routes in Mumbai. On the downside, the commuter strength has been slowly declining. It was 45 lakh daily a decade back, but currently stands at just 30 lakh.

Officials said that poor maintenance of buses, non-punctuality etc has seen commuters switch to other modes of transport. This has adversely impacted the transport utility’s coffers. In 2015-16, accumulated losses stood at over Rs 1000 crore.

neha.kulkarni@expressindia.com

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