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BEST puts AC bus revival on ice

Committee members reject proposal for mini AC buses alleging there was no tender process

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BEST puts AC bus revival on ice
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    Mumbaikars will not have the luxury of travelling in AC buses — at least at this point in time. After its proposal to scrap 259 AC buses, the BEST Committee on Thursday rejected the plan to hire 50 mini AC buses and 50 non-AC buses. This decision was taken after the committee claimed that there was no proper process followed in the inception of the plan and that no tenders had been called for the same.

    "We are cancelling the proposal to procure these mini AC buses," said Anil Kokil, Chairman, BEST Committee. The decision has inadvertently hurt the future of air-conditioned buses in a Metropolitan city like Mumbai.

    The committee members claimed that proper tendering process hadn't been followed to procure these buses. Earlier in April, the BEST Undertaking had planned to get these 50 mini AC buses on a wet lease basis where the buses and drivers would be provided by a private operator with no conductor on board.

    The BEST was to procure these buses which would have cost them Rs 28 per km as opposed to their present expenditure of Rs 48 per km for each bus.

    An entire lot of these AC buses were expected to ply 4,500 km per month. The cost of repairs and maintenance would be borne by the private contractor and the buses would be parked at Deonar, Shivaji Nagar and Malwani depots at an annual rent of Re 1 per bus.

    BEST also had plans to get 50 mini non-AC buses, which has been cancelled.

    "Getting buses on a wet lease is the most economical way for the BEST. Now, this has been cancelled," said Surendra Bagde, General Manager, BEST Undertaking.

    Committee members said they have not approved it because the BEST was procuring these buses on 'rate contract' whose cost is decided by Association of State Road Transport Undertaking (ASRTU) and not through tendering process.

    However, BEST officials said that political representatives from different political parties are against privatisation of bus services.

    "They have the wrong notion that a wet lease would mean complete privatisation. But this is how many global city bus services function," said a BEST official.

    In limbo

    The BEST kept scrapping the proposal for 259 AC buses as the case is being heard at the High Court. These buses barely saw 7,000 passengers annually. Over the past few weeks, the BEST stopped plying AC bus fleet.
    This is being done as part of the plan to help ease financial burden and save the undertaking Rs 700 crore annually.

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