The Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport's (BEST) new dedicated point-to-point service from Mumbai Airport to Bandra-Kurla Complex and Gateway of India has hit a couple of speed breakers. First being the fares are apparently higher than the regular bus route and the second issue is that the Undertaking hasn't sought permission from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority (MMRTA). This was inaugurated by state environment minister Aaditya Thackeray on Sunday and on Tuesday, it became operational.
The passengers and activists took to social media complaining about the exorbitant fares charged by the BEST for this point-to-point AC e-bus services starting from the T2 terminal of Mumbai airport. On the other hand, the officials from Maharashtra Transport Department told that the bus service fares have not been approved by the regulator--- MMRTA and that this regulator was not even approached by the Undertaking.
The BEST on the other hand stated that the nod was given by the BEST Committee which is sufficient. “We can operate point-to-point bus services. We had sought permission from the BEST Committee for the same. These are dedicated services from the airport and fares are competitive,” said a BEST official on condition of anonymity.
According to BEST, passengers will have to pay Rs 75 for travelling from the city airport to BKC, Rs 125 to Nehru Planetarium in Worli, Rs 150 to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), and Rs 175 to reach Hotel Trident and the Gateway of India. The BEST officials said that these would have a single pick-up point from Mumbai Airport and passengers can alight along the route of this journey but cannot board.
The normal BEST fares, which are in the range of Rs 5 to 20 for ordinary buses, and Rs 6 to Rs 25 for AC buses for similar distances. Moreover, if fares are an issue then they will see depending on the feedback received from passengers. “If this receives good demand then we will start such point-to-point services on more routes,” said Lokesh Chandra, General Manager, BEST Undertaking.
This, according to BEST officials, is not a regular bus service with Stage Carriage that will have multiple halts at bus stops and that it is a special feature of their services that the Undertaking is trying to provide. This service will also help in faster movement of buses as there are very limited halts.
Maharashtra Transport Commissioner and MMRTA member Avinash Dhakane confirmed that the Transport authority had not received any proposal from the BEST about the bus service fares. A former RTO officer said that unless the regulator clears the fare structure, which is prepared by public transport bodies approved by the MMRTA, it cannot be implemented.
The BEST undertaking provides public bus services in Mumbai and neighbouring cities, including Thane, Mira-Bhayander, and Navi Mumbai. Around 25 lakh passengers travel daily in the BEST buses. The BEST transport undertaking has been continuously running in losses, and it depends on its power distribution business for financial gains. Earlier this month, the undertaking presented a deficit budget of Rs 2236.48 crore for the transport vertical for FY23. The BEST broadly has plans of getting 2100 AC e-buses.