People in the suburbs are a harrowed lot. Thanks to BEST’s low frequency bus services in the suburbs. The ridership of BEST buses has soared by six times since the unlocking in June. In mid-June, BEST buses ferried 2.5 lakh passengers daily, which has now soared to 15 lakh. However commuting has become a tedious task in Borivali, Goregaon, Jogeshwari and Andheri. Commuters complained that their complaints have fallen on deaf ears.
"We need to wait for longer hours. Buses for route numbers 281 have a frequency of more than an hour," said Rashmi Singh, frequent commuter. “The number of passengers is increasing as the state is relaxing the restrictions but the ratio of buses is very low" said Anil Duggal, a banker. "The buses are being run with only 50 per cent passengers on board. Which is why everyone is not being allowed to enter at once, this is resulting in the commuters to wait for longer hours" said a BEST depot manager.
BEST has scrapped 350 of its buses between April and August this year. By March 31, the undertaking plans to scrap a total 899 buses. BEST has a fleet of 3,340 buses and the scrapping of buses have already led to a fall in the numbers.
“Blaming BEST alone won't solve anything. The BMC has also cut its revenue by Rs 500 crore. BEST is already under loss, how can it buy more buses," said BEST committee member, Bhushan Patil. "BEST needs to maintain 3,337 buses on its fleet so it’s evident the management will replace the scrapped buses with new ones. The old buses are being scrapped only by following orders of Bombay HC" said a senior BEST official.
Meanwhile, private vehicle operators have extended support to the undertaking asking them to lease out their buses on service.
"We have written to BEST management and told them about leasing our buses to meet the shortfall. There are nearly 200 private buses operating daily between Andheri and Virar, if BEST agrees - then we can provide last mile connectivity to the passengers" said Anil Desai, a private transport operator.