In a poignant moment for the city of Mumbai, the beloved non-AC Double-Decker red bus, a symbol of the city's charm and nostalgia, will officially retire from the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) initiative's service tomorrow.
For generations of Mumbaikars, the Double-Decker bus has been more than just a mode of transportation; it's been a cherished part of their lives, weaving through the bustling streets of Mumbai for 86 years. As of September 15, 2023, these historic buses will no longer grace the city's roads, marking the end of an era.
According to BEST, on its final day of service, the iconic non-AC double-decker red bus will ply its route between Agarkar Chowk and Seepz bus station. BEST has scheduled over a dozen trips between these two destinations to bid farewell to this beloved mode of transport.
One red double-decker bus will be preserved
The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) has chosen to preserve one of these iconic double-decker buses, ensuring that a piece of Mumbai's history lives on. This bus will find its new home in the museum at the Anik bus depot, serving as a living testament to the bygone days when these red giants were an everyday sight for Mumbai's residents and visitors alike.
"The retirement of these iconic buses may evoke nostalgia among the city's inhabitants, as they have not only been a mode of transportation but also a cultural emblem. The decision to preserve one bus acknowledges the historical significance of these vehicles and their enduring place in Mumbai's collective memory" said an official.
These distinctive double-deckers, inspired by London's motorized buses, made their Mumbai debut in 1937 to cope with the city's burgeoning traffic. At their zenith in the early 1990s, the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking boasted a fleet of nearly 900 of these eye-catching buses. However, their numbers dwindled post the mid-'90s due to soaring operational expenses, cumbersome logistics, and fuel inefficiency.
As of October's first week, even the open-deck double-decker buses, cherished for their role as sightseeing attractions since the 1990s, will vanish from the streetscape. However BEST, a civic transport and electricity provider entity, has confirmed this shift and the started process of procurement of a few open double decker buses.
According to sources, the pivotal decision to retire these buses stems from governmental policy alignment, as these vehicles have reached their legal lifespan of 15 years and no longer conform to modern safety standards and emissions regulations. Consequently, these beloved buses will now be phased .
Notably, the red double-deckers not only offered a picturesque vantage point to passengers but also bridged the last mile of connectivity in the suburbs, a role they fulfilled until the arrival of auto-rickshaws in the 1970s.
However, the city's transit landscape is evolving, with BEST introducing leased battery-operated red and black double-decker buses since February. Order for the supply of 900 air conditioned double decker electric buses is already placed. Approximately 25 of these eco-friendly buses are already in operation.
As part of the transition, BEST has initiated the acquisition process for open-deck buses dedicated to sightseeing purposes, ensuring tourists can continue to enjoy the city's attractions. Until these new additions arrive, the battery-run double-decker e-buses will serve as the primary mode of transport for tourists.
"This marks the end of an era for Mumbai's iconic red double-decker buses, but also ushers in a new era of eco-friendly, technologically advanced public transportation for the city's future" said an BEST official.
Mumbaikars wants reintroduction of iconic double decker buses
Many Mumbaikars, like former BEST employee Jagnarayan Kahar, feel that non-AC double-decker red buses are an iconic symbol of Mumbai. They believe that reintroducing these buses would bring back the joy of traveling on them.
Mahesh Kambale, a 42-year-old resident of Vikhroli, expressed nostalgia for the old buses and the breeze from open windows, which won't be the same with the new double-decker e-buses that are air-conditioned. These sentiments reflect the unique charm and identity associated with Mumbai's traditional double-decker buses.
"It is utterly senseless and heartless that we are forced to bid adieu to these iconic buses, it's essential to remember the stories they carry – stories of Mumbaikars going about their daily lives, students commuting to school, office-goers on their way to work, and families embarking on memorable journeys. These buses have been witnesses to countless moments of joy, laughter, and reflection," said Sandya Gokhale, member of Aamachi Mumbai, Aamachi BEST'
"If the red double-decker buses may no longer grace the streets of Mumbai, their legacy will endure in the hearts of those who have traveled on them, only in the photographs and memories that capture their timeless charm. This unique feature of Mumbai will be lost forever. We as citizens, commuters, want the iconic double-decker red back on road" she added
Similarly Hussain Indorewala, co-founder of 'Aamchi Mumbai Aamachi BEST' said, "The wet-leasing policy of the BEST has left the utility in shambles. It is important that the new double decker buses are operated by BEST and not by private contractors".
To bid farewell to this iconic vehicle, a heartfelt farewell ceremony has been organized through 'Aapli Best Apapachachashtya.' All passengers, bus enthusiasts, and the general public are invited to join in this emotional event, which will take place on Friday, September 15, 2023, at Agarkar Chowk, Andheri East, starting at 5:30 PM.
This ceremony is a tribute to the memories, stories, and journeys shared by countless Mumbaikars who have ridden these double-decker buses over the years.