The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking, which runs more than 3,000 buses, is losing at least 2,500 operation hours each day either because vehicles leave depots late on account of their drivers and conductors or some other reason. This was brought to the notice of a BEST committee which Friday cleared its budget for 2020-21 fiscal.
As per the budget, the total earnings of the BEST for the fiscal has been pegged at Rs 5,558.91 crore, while its total expenditure is expected to be Rs 7,808.65 crore. The budget will now be sent to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation for its clearance.
According to officials, BEST’s budget is estimated to have a deficit of Rs 2,249.70 crore, a substantial increase from Rs 380.37 losses estimated in 2018-19.
Committee member Shrikant Kavtankar said at least 3,198 BEST buses were stuck in its depots for at least 500 hours every day cumulatively due to delay by drivers and conductors, and for another 1,600 hours due to delay by relief drivers and conductors. Such delay, the committee members stated, hampered BEST’s punctuality and eventually commuters were forced to take a taxi or autorickshaw.
According to the statistics available, at least 269 buses were stuck in depots causing a loss of 2,129 hours on November 14, while another 257 buses were delayed causing a loss of 1,830 hours on November 15. Another 2,897 hours were lost on November 18 and similar losses were recorded throughout the week.
Not just unavailability of staff, BEST’s reduced fleet strength had further added to its poor frequency, committee members pointed out. Currently, BEST has merely 3,198 buses, down from its earlier fleet of 3,337 buses.
While a total of 1,500 buses were promised to BEST, until now only 23 have been added to its fleet. Of these, at least two had been delivered with defective doors and could not be put into service immediately, sources said. The mini-buses were procured to be primarily run on shorter routes and retrieve passengers lost to shared autorickshaws and taxis at railway and metro stations over the years.
Another committee member Friday also pointed out that the BEST also faced a challenge from private buses, which picked passengers from outside Metro stations.
The BEST passengers’ volume had dropped to an all-time low of 22 lakh in February, which increased gradually after the minimum fare was reduced to Rs 5 for normal buses, and Rs 6 for air-conditioned buses. Earlier, it charged Rs 8 for a minimum of two kilometre. The average number of passengers ferried daily increased by 19 lakh since July when the revised fares kicked-in. The figure now stands at around 30 lakh each day.
However, the increase in passenger due to the revised fares has also led to a loss of Rs 240 crore in fares until now. On Friday, members of the committee demanded that the minimum fares of AC buses be increased to Rs 10 from the current Rs 6 to curtail losses.
Fare revision has also led to Rs 8 crore being accumulated in coins of Rs 5, Rs 10, Rs 2 and Re 1. The BEST gets Rs 14 lakh in coins each day which continues to be a problem for the body.
Meanwhile, the budget presented by BEST for 2020-21 showed an estimated earning of Rs 5,558.91 crore and an expenditure of Rs 7,808.65 crore. The traffic division alone is amounting to Rs 2,349.74 crore deficit, while a surplus from its electricity division has dropped to merely Rs 99.73 crore.
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