Experts, urban planners term BEST budget as financially unjustifiable

Transport experts and urban planners have termed the proposed budget of the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking for the financial year 2021-22 as financially unjustifiable.

Early this month, the BEST had proposed its estimated budget for the following financial year. The undertaking stated that it will be expanding its current fleet of 3,875 buses to 6,337 by March 2022. BEST will be procuring most of the buses on wet lease and the undertaking also stated that at present, 300 electric buses are being ordered and bid for 600 single decker CNG buses have been invited.

Transport experts and urban planners representing the citizen's body, 'Aamchi BEST Aamchi Mumbai' have criticised BEST's idea of wet leasing buses from private contractors.

"The budget proves that BEST is ideologically committed to subsidising private operators, rather than providing safe and reliable public service" said the statement.

Senior transport expert and urban planner Vidyadhar Date opined that this budget will lead to a surge in BEST's requirement of subsidy and losses.

"The cost per kilometre for the passengers will increase in the wet leased buses. It is clear that in order to reduce costs, BEST must stop wet leasing buses" Date told FPJ.

In order to cater to the service, BEST needs to maintain its own fleet of 3,337 buses. The experts said that BEST's fleet was reduced from 4,700 in 2011 to 3,337 in 2019. Meanwhile, the union has alleged that the BEST's present fleet is around 2,776 buses.

"The BEST has also planned to hire conductors on contract basis for the wet leased buses, this is a clear indication that the management is planning layoffs in the long run" JM Kahar, General Secretary, BEST Kamgar Sangathana told FPJ.

"Considering that BMC is putting the BEST under budget constraints, the undertaking's claim that wet leasing buses is illogical" stated Date.

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