The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST)’s “conductor-less” bus services has led to confusion and chaos at bus stops and depots with many commuters still unaware of the change.
As part of the “conductor-less” services, cash-strapped BEST has done away with conductors on its buses and the second conductor on double-deckers. Commuters, who earlier bought tickets on board, now have to buy tickets before boarding the bus. At stops along the way, conductors have been deployed to issue tickets to commuters boarding buses en route.
Depots, including the CST bus depot from where thousands of commuters set off for various points in South Mumbai, saw crowding and jostling with BEST restricting entry into buses only from one door. Conductors deployed on the ground to issue tickets were mobbed by commuters.
Adding to the commotion, conductors were seen chasing and forcing commuters out of buses who had boarded without tickets. Commuters of double-deckers were the worst hit as BEST officials stopped every passenger asking them to buy tickets before moving to the upper deck.
Purvi Shirvastav, who takes a double-decker to reach Churchgate, said the new system was unfriendly and time-consuming. “After I boarded the bus, the conductor at the door stopped me from moving further before I bought the ticket. The area near the steps of a double-decker is too tiny and very uncomfortable to rummage for cash,” Shrivastava said.
Passengers further complained of delays with conductors taking long to hand tickets. Fiona Gonsalvis, who travels from Versova to Andheri station, said, “There is never a conductor at Juhu Abhishek bus stop from where I board and then the conductor boards at some other stop, where the bus is held for five-seven minutes for him to give tickets to all passengers.”
Kailash Birwadkar, who boards a bus from CSMT depot, the whole exercise is poorly managed. Fifty-year-old Jatin Patil, travelling from Churchgate to Nariman Point, boarded a bus thinking that he will buy the ticket on the way. However, there was no conductor on the bus and he got off without paying. “No one stopped me as I tried to board the bus. I was not aware that one has to buy a ticket before boarding. I travelled without a ticket as I didn’t know what to do,” Patil said.
Many commuters said that with BEST focusing on point-to-point operations, bus frequency on other routes have been massively hit. Sujata Kishan, who boards a bus regularly from four bungalows on route 249, said, “The frequency is bad with no buses for over 40 minutes.”
BEST runs a fleet of around 3,510 buses, including 315 procured on wet-lease on which nearly 10,070 conductors are deployed in shifts. In an attempt to rationalise its workforce, BEST has decided to do away with conductors on certain routes. “Conductor-less” service has been introduced on 75 routes.
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