The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking will have to scrap 535 buses by the end of this year, shrinking its fleet considerably, an official said on Wednesday.

According to the BEST, in keeping with the Bombay High Court's directive, buses that have been operational for 15 years have to be scrapped.

As per sources in the undertaking, the BEST has already scrapped 354 out of 899 buses, which are meant to be taken off the streets this year, and the remaining 535 buses will be scrapped in phases.

The list of scrapped buses includes 19 iconic double- decker buses.

The BEST, however, claimed that it has already initiated the proposal to replace the scrapped buses.

Presently, the BEST has an active fleet of about 3,340 buses that includes 460 hired from private contractors on a wet-lease model, under which contractors are responsible for drivers and maintenance of buses.

The second most important mode of transport in the city after the local trains, BEST buses ferry nearly 80 lakh passengers every day.

The BEST administration's lack of proper management is the reason for the shrinking fleet and it will cause major inconvenience to citizens of Mumbai, alleged Sunil Ganacharya, a senior BJP member on BEST panel.

"Presently, the carrying capacity of BEST buses has been brought down to 50 per cent in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation will worsen when all 899 buses are scrapped," he said.

In 2019, BEST and BEST Workers Union, had filed an MoU, which mandates the undertaking has to maintain its own fleet at 3,337 buses, excluding buses hired from private contractors.

"The proposal for replacing the scrapped buses has already been initiated for the management's approval," a BEST official said.

Anil Patankar, chairman of BEST committee, said the undertaking has decided to hire nearly 1,500 buses on wet lease from private contractors and will try to bring the remaining buses on roads at the earliest.

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