It’s a month’s wait for citizens to avail cheaper BEST bus services

The revised fee structure is expected to come into effect within a month

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It’s a month’s wait for citizens to avail cheaper BEST bus services
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Decks have been cleared for reducing fares of BEST buses. However, passengers will not be able to avail BEST services at Rs 5, immediately. The revised fee structure is expected to come into effect within a month.

On June 25, the BEST Committee approved the administration's proposal of reducing minimum fares. Moreover, the Undertaking is getting new buses in which door closure would be mandatory plus they intend to make their entire fleet air conditioned. Meanwhile, this move is also seen as a political mileage for Shiv Sena as its young leader Aditya Thackeray who personally came to Electric House after the proposal for fare reduction was approved.

As per the new fare structure, the base fare would be Rs 5 for first 5 km, gradually up to 10 km and 15 km, the BEST will charge Rs 10 and Rs 15 respectively in the revised fare structure. At present, it is Rs 8 for the first 2 km, which increases every 2 km and for 10 km, people are paying Rs 18. The fares of AC buses will start from Rs 6 for the first 5 km and then Rs 13 for 10 km so on and so forth. The fare restructuring was part of the reforms suggested by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in a bid to revive the beleaguered bus transport system, whose Transport wing is facing cumulative losses of over Rs 1100 crore.

"We expect this new fare to be implemented within a month. We are simultaneously going to increase our fleet to 6,000 buses so that can ferry over 50 lakh passengers every day," said Surendra Bagde, General Manager, BEST Undertaking. Currently, the total number of daily passengers travelling in BEST buses has dropped to 25 lakh or so; which a couple of years ago was 42 lakh. Of these, around 55 percent of them travel for the first 5 km in BEST buses.

The meeting gave away two other important points — promotion of AC buses and increasing bus fleet rather than reducing its numbers which they have been doing for the past few years now. "We intend to make the entire bus fleet air-conditioned. That's why the minimum fare is Rs 6 for AC buses," said Yashwant Jadhav, chairman of BMC's standing committee. "The BEST should try standing on its own feet else someday the BMC will collapse financially".

The BEST has begun the process of inducting 530 buses in the coming six months on a wet lease basis. These include 400 mini buses, 50 Midi buses and 80 Electric buses. "All these will have single door closure which will be compulsory," added Bagde.

Yuva Sena leader Aditya Thackeray who visited BEST's headquarters, for the first time said, "We can start new routes with additional buses. We can focus on improving last mile connectivity and revamp seating arrangement on shorter routes".

While the proposal was passed unanimously, several committee members raised questions about the execution of the plan to reduce fare. A senior committee member from Congress and leader of the opposition in the BMC, Ravi Raja said: "Each month the BEST will incur around Rs 9 crore losses if they lower their fares".

The BMC had promised to provide a grant of Rs 100 crore as soon as the BEST implements reforms which included restructuring the fare and increasing its fleet size under the wet lease model. The total cost is estimated to be around Rs 600 crore.

On June 27, the BMC's standing committee is likely to approve this revised fare structure. The fare structure will come into effect after being cleared by the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Transport Authority.

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