Over the last three days, the departure of at least 250 Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) buses has been delayed due to the absence of proper ticketing machines. With defective machines at their disposal, conductors end up waiting for proper machines before the buses could leave. In November last year, the BEST extended the contract of Trimax IT Infrastructures and Services Ltd that served the undertaking between 2010-14, for handling ticket collection through Electronic Ticket Issuing Machines (ETIM). Upon renewal of the contract, the service provider had supplied new machines at Backbay and Wadala depots. However, many continue to use the old machines.
“Since Thursday, at least 250 buses have left late by at least an hour or two from their Priyadarshini and Anik depots, as they had defective machines. Even a half-an-hour delay of buses from depots affects our loyal commuters who are then forced to use other modes of transport,” said a senior BEST official. Installing new ticketing machines is seen as an urgent requirement as the remaining stock of ticket roll (manually stamped tickets) has now depleted, he added.
According to senior officials, the depots were going to receive 4,000 new machines by August 15 from Trimax. However, the adminstration has stalled their procurement and prescribed changes in their design.
“The procurement of these new machines, which were expected to be received by August 15, have been suspended for some time. Certain changes, which could make machines read smart cards, among other developments in ticketing, were suggested to the company. As of now, 40 per cent of the existing Trimax machines are defective and not in working condition,” the official added.
BEST is also supposed to pay Rs 3 crore to Trimax for procuring the equipment. The delay in disbursing the amount has reportedly held up payment of salaries of Trimax engineers who are stationed at depots. Officials said these engineers have not been reporting for five months.
“Everyday, we are witnessing breakdowns of the machines used in the buses, which is in turn takes a toll on our revenue collection. The adminstration has also taken certain discreet decisions, which includes replacing the undertaking’s transport consultant group, without informing the committee…,” said Ravi Raja, Congress leader and BEST committee member.
“We are trying to address the issue at the two depots. As far as introducing changes in the machines is concerned, it is necessary that we get perfect machines at one go without having to procure different machines next time,” said Surendra Bagde, general manager, BEST. BEST Chairperson Anil Kokil said the matter has been looked into and the need for taking concerned action has been conveyed.