Mumbai: Wet lease buses become a cause of concern for BEST

The wet lease buses of BEST have become a bane for passengers as a number of issues are putting brakes on its smooth operations. These buses are skipping bus stops falling on the route and those which have conductors; don’t heed to them despite ringing the bell. The BEST claims to be monitoring the buses with the new system installed at Wadala depot. Wet lease buses need to complete daily running of at least 160-180 kms.

The passengers have been complaining about how there are instances where these buses aren’t making a halt on mid-route bus stops despite it not being a point-to-point service. The wet lease buses are owned and operated by private contractors and they have their own drivers running them.

For instance, one passenger H Mukherjee mentioned his experience on social media wherein the AC bus on route number 245 on the Kandarpada-Charkop route skipped bus halts. He mentioned that the driver was taking wrong turns along the route and was overspeeding as well. Surprisingly there was a driver – who works for BEST Undertaking – ringing the bell to inform about the bus stop. However, the driver allegedly didn’t heed.

Another passenger G Vishwakarma mentioned about bus route number 288 and 287 plying in Kandivali (E) wherein the bus drivers do not halt despite passengers waving at them at the legitimate bus stops in between the route. The BEST Committee members claim that of the 3800 odd total bus fleet being operated, more than one-third of them are on wet lease.

“If these buses are not plying on a point-to-point basis then they need to halt at the designated bus stops. The passenger should complain to the Traffic Control of BEST and investigation needs to be done against the contractor of these wet lease buses. The BEST administration should also identify routes where these issues are occurring rampantly,” said former chairman and BEST member Anil Patankar of Shiv Sena.

The Undertaking started these 22-seater buses instead of the regular 49-seater ones on most of the routes. This has already halved the passenger intake. In addition to this, the Undertaking has now removed conductors from many of these buses that stand at bus stops. A union leader claims that the BEST is incurring losses as at some bus stops in mid-route, conductors aren’t present and there is no one to issue a ticket.

The BEST officials state that they are aware of these issues which are teething trouble owing to it being a new system. Their newly launched ITMS is being used to monitor the buses which are fitted with GPS. “The speeds of buses are restricted at 50kmph and we come to know about buses and their location. We are also enquiring with the contractors of wet lease buses in case of complaints,” said a BEST official.

However other Committee members feel that the newly launched ITMS is a farce. “The conductor-less buses are a blunder. Moreover, the newly launched ITMS system doesn’t keep track of wet-lease buses which form almost 40% of the total fleet size, and also not part of BEST’s schedule,” said Sunil Ganacharya, member, BEST Committee.

Earlier this January, the BEST 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 at a cost of Rs 1942 crore. The BEST will take the total number of the fleet to 6000 buses of which at least 3000 buses would be on wet lease.

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