Mumbai: After hike in diesel price, BEST struggles to schedule refueling its buses at nearby petrol pumps

Keeping these things in mind, depots have been asked to identify fuel stations where their buses can be fuelled after 11 pm onwards.

Shashank RaoUpdated: Monday, March 21, 2022, 08:22 PM IST
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FPJ

A day after the decision to increase prices of diesel by Rs 25 per litre was taken for bulk users; the BEST on Monday was scrambling to sort out a schedule for refuelling its diesel buses. Sources said that at present the average fuel capacity of each bus is 165 litres that gives a mileage of 3 km and a bus needs to run 160-180 kms per day.

Keeping these things in mind, depots have been asked to identify fuel stations where their buses can be fuelled after 11 pm onwards. On ground, the information hasn't trickled down yet as a mechanism to enable at least 900 diesel buses (including those on wet-lease), is being worked out.

On Monday, sources in BEST said that they have range of buses right from the small tempo traveller to the regular single-decker buses that runs on diesel. These 900 buses on diesel are part of their fleet of 3540 buses, which is almost a quarter of the fleet. The average capacity of the fuel tank in these buses are 165 litres or so.

"At present the approximate mileage that the diesel buses give is 3-3.5 km per litre of diesel. As per internal target each bus has to complete a daily journey of 160-180 km. At the end of the day, depending on the fuel available in a bus, the drivers are asked to refuel buses which happen once in three days or so," said a BEST official.

The drivers claim that usually after reaching the bus depot at night, at the end of the day's trip, they go to the fuel pump inside the depot. "We usually go to the diesel pump station inside the depot either at the end of the day before parking or early morning before starting it. It also depends on the quantity of diesel available and trip routes during the day for that particular bus," explained S Patil, the BEST driver for past 16 years or so.

There are 27 BEST bus depots across Mumbai's island city and suburbs and each of these have at least one or two pumps installed depending on the size of the depot and holding capacity. Sources said that as the Undertaking also has sufficient number of CNG and Electric buses in its fleet, which is 75 percent of the total fleet, the use of these pumps is monitored and used as and when required.

"It takes 4-5 minutes for refueling our bus at the depots. Now we will have to see the time taken to refuel the buses as even if we go to the retail fuel stations at night, there will be other vehicles as well in the queue. And not to forget the dead runs that we will have to undergo," said Devendra Sawant, a wet lease bus driver.

Dead runs generally mean that taking an empty bus from the bus depot to the nearest fuel station and back. The BEST officials agree that this will certainly have an impact as the distance from every bus depot or bus station usually outside railway stations, till the petrol/ diesel pumps will defer. The round trip can be even as less as 500 meters or less or even go up to a few kilometres also depending on the traffic on road.

There are more than 225-odd petrol pumps across the city. The queues of motorists lining up at these fuel pumps are already long and once BEST buses start queuing up then situation could turn totally chaotic.

At a time when the BEST was paying Rs 94 per litre of diesel, it had estimated spending of Rs 12 crore per month. Now, they have estimated the cost to be around Rs 30 crore per month at Rs 119 per litre. This is because of the hike behind each litre by Rs 25 for bulk buyers of diesel announced on March 20.

The international oil prices jumped nearly 40% amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. However, the retail price of diesel remains unchanged. And so the BEST Undertaking has decided to send their diesel buses to fuel pump stations across the city and suburbs for refuelling as they have no other option.

This comes at a time when the BEST is also looking at rationalizing their fleet of diesel buses for which they are carrying out a life-cycle study. They are getting a quote for their 185 diesel buses, studying cost impact if retrofitted with CNG and other details.

A member of the NGO Aapli BEST, Aaplya Saathi said: "There will be no doubt inconvenience to regular motorists in case the BEST buses start queuing up at fuel stations. The BEST should consider running their own buses if they are paying Rs 26 per km on CNG and Rs 9 per km for electric buses".

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