BEST buses
BEST buses
File pic

The government seems to be pushing for privatisation in bus operations across the country in the guise of improving public transport. On Monday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a new scheme wherein 20,000 buses will be operated on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) across the country.

This comes at a time when the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) has already procured 1,200 buses on wet lease, where buses are owned and operated by a private operator, and aims to take it to 3,000 buses.

The government aims to raise the share of public transport in urban areas through the expansion of metro rail networks and augmentation of city bus services. For this, the finance minister stated that a new scheme would come in place wherein Rs 18,000 crore will be kept in the kitty to deploy the PPP model.

This will namely enable private sector players to acquire, maintain and operate over 20,000 buses. Sources said that this will not only benefit the bus manufacturers but will also provide opportunities for them or private operators to run services as well. Backing this, the minister said that the scheme will boost the automobile sector, create employment opportunities and enhance ease of mobility for urban residents.

This announcement comes at a time when the BEST Undertaking already has 1,200 plus buses on wet lease. Moreover earlier last month, they got approval for 400 CNG buses on wet lease, along with private drivers and conductors for manning the buses. The private contractor will be awarded for 10 years for Rs 1,942 crore.

"We will be taking the total number of the fleet to 6,000 buses of which at least 3,000 buses would be on wet lease," said a BEST official. The experts criticised this move as more private buses will operate and with the Centre pushing for this, the scope of bus transport Undertakings like BEST, TMT, NMMT among others across the country will have wet-lease buses in their fleet.

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