The state-owned Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) buses started plying on Mumbai roads from Friday. To augment its fleet and cater to the high demand of commuters, BEST Undertaking has procured 76 MSRTC buses on wet lease. “BEST has pressed the 76 buses in only five routes which have the highest demands. These are longer routes which mainly connect the western and eastern suburbs with the island city. These routes have emerged to become the alternative of local trains, hence improving the frequency was necessary" said a senior BEST official.
The undertaking has assigned 10 MSRTC buses for the Andheri depot. Each of these buses were pressed on a single route connecting Versova with Hutatma Chowk, Fort (4 Ltd). Being one of the long-distance routes, buses running in this route regularly used to fall short for the heavy demand of passengers.
"The frequency of the buses significantly improved on Friday. Earlier we had only 12-15 buses for 4 Ltd routes. But on Friday we have run nearly 25 buses on these routes" said an official at Andheri depot.
The MSRTC buses plied with full sitting capacity. Standees were not allowed.
"An MSRTC bus can carry 49 people at a time, while a regular BEST bus can carry only 30 passengers due to COVID restrictions," said a BEST traffic official.
At the Mumbai Central depot, 50 buses arrived this week. The buses were mobilised in areas like Vikhroli, Ghatkopar and Govandi on Thursday from where they were operating. In Kurla and Vikhroli, passengers had to wait 30-45 minutes for a bus. During peak hours, the waiting period was three hours. Each of the routes received additional 8-10 MSRTC buses. On some routes 15 were pressed. People didn't have to wait long," said a traffic official.
"The frequency has improved moderately but not completely. BEST should also now run with full-seating capacity. It will ease the pressure," said Advait Patel, a private firm executive. "I did not have to wait for more than 10 minutes on Friday,” said Vivek Kumar, a sales executive.
Drivers and conductors of MSRTC buses appeared to be quite apprehensive on running their buses on Mumbai roads. "Mumbai roads are heavily congested and most of the MSRTC buses have hinge doors which open on the outside. In case two wheelers try to frisk from the side there could be an accident" said a MSRTC driver, who hails from Nashik. “Driving during the peak hours is hectic. Traffic moves really slow in the city,” said another MSRTC driver.