Mumbai said its goodbyes to a beloved part of its urban landscape as the iconic non-AC double-decker buses officially retired from the BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport) fleet on Friday. These red beauties had been a symbol of Mumbai's unique cultural experience for over eight decades, leaving behind cherished memories and nostalgia.
Introduced into service in 1937, these double-decker buses were more than mere modes of transportation; they were an integral part of Mumbai's identity. However, several factors, including high operating costs, cumbersome transportation, and fuel consumption, led to their gradual phase-out. The government policy, based on a 15-year legal lifespan for vehicles, further supported this decision.
The retirement of these buses was marked by a heartfelt farewell captured in a viral video. Bus number 415, which plied between Agarkar Chowk and SEEPZ, was the last to leave the Marol depot. Balloons adorned this iconic bus, which had become a symbol of the city. The video stirred emotional responses from netizens, highlighting the deep connection people had with these buses.
Emotional Moment For Mumbaikars! Last Non-AC Double-Decker Red Bus Leaves From Marol Depot | Salman Ansari
Farewell to the last Non-AC Double-Decker Red Bus | Salman Ansari
Many Mumbaikars shared their memories and sentiments on various social media platforms. For those who grew up in Mumbai, riding the double-decker bus was more than just a commute; it was a unique experience, especially for children who loved the front seats on the upper deck.
One double-decker bus to be kept in museum
In a touching gesture, BEST decided to preserve one double-decker bus in its museum at the Anik depot, ensuring that future generations can glimpse the city's rich history. Commuters are encouraged to embrace these new buses, promising a journey that combines nostalgia with modern convenience.
Despite bidding farewell to the old, BEST is committed to preserving the heritage of Mumbai's double-decker buses. They have launched a fleet of air-conditioned double-decker buses, which are eco-friendly and equipped with modern conveniences like mobile charging and CCTV facilities. Plans are underway to expand the fleet, with 900 air-conditioned double-decker buses expected to serve the city by July 2024.
A farewell function organized by a passengers' group, 'Aapali BEST Aaplya Chsathi,' was a testament to the love for these buses. Cake cutting and honouring the crew members of the iconic non-AC double-decker red bus marked the emotional event.
A miniature model of the iconic Non-AC Double-Decker Red Bus | Salman Ansari
Protest by MNS workers
Meanwhile, some MNS workers protested and demanded the reintroduction of non-AC double-decker buses, reflecting the deep attachment Mumbaikars have for these iconic vehicles.
As the iconic non-AC double-decker red buses from the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) service retired on Friday, the people of Mumbai are reminiscing about a bygone era of public transportation.
For many residents, these distinctive buses hold a special place in their hearts, evoking cherished memories of journeys from school to college and daily commutes.
MNS party activists protesting against the closure of BEST diesel double decker bus at Andheri | Salman Ansari
Mumbaikars share memories on social media
"As Mumbai moves into a new era of public transportation, the retirement of the non-AC double-decker buses marks the end of an era. While modernization brings comfort, it cannot replace the nostalgia and memories associated with these beloved red buses. Mumbai's streets may look different, but the echoes of the past will always remain in the hearts of its people," said Jayesh Dangar, 35, of Borivali.
"While the new air-conditioned double-decker buses being introduced by BEST offer comfort and modern amenities, they lack the charm and nostalgia of their predecessors. Passengers reminisced about the joy of sitting in the front with open windows and the wind in their faces," said Vaishali Kamble of Jogeshwari.
Sushma Damani, a 65-year-old homemaker from Sakinaka, expressed her sentiment, saying, "I last traveled in a double-decker bus 20-25 years ago. Back then, I would use the service quite often. Children loved the front seats on the upper deck. The bus offers a special experience of travel."
Gajanan Shastri, 48, from Dadar West, lamented the passing of an era, saying, "Will miss this iconic red non-AC double-decker bus. Our next generation won't even imagine the fun of climbing to the first floor and sitting on the first bench in front of an open window and enjoying the view and air from the top."
Sudesh Sharma, 62, from Lokhandwala, expressed gratitude for having the chance to travel in one of the last remaining buses from the old fleet, emphasizing the importance of remembering this iconic mode of public transport.
While acknowledging the comfort of the new e-buses, Manohar Godbole, 45, noted, "As the new double-decker e-buses are air-conditioned, we will miss sitting in the front in the old buses and traveling with the breeze from the open windows on our faces."
Vidyadhar Mhatre, 56, from Kandivali, summed up the sentiment by saying, "I still remember bus no 137 - Navy Nagar to VT. Had so many beautiful memories. I will miss my past. I am feeling very empty inside. Bye Double Decker."
One user took to social media to commemorate the legacy of these buses, posted on 'X', "Introducing our iconic Mumbai Double Decker Bus T-Shirt, a tribute to the beloved red beauties that once navigated the bustling streets of the city!"
Another user shared their cherished memories on 'x', saying, "Memories, memories, and more memories—that's all I can say, from school to college, the Double Decker bus journey always held a special place. Alvida dost and thanks for the good times."
Shantanu Gurjar added a personal touch to the farewell and posted on 'X', "My father bought one of the unused ones in an auction in Mumbai. It's currently sitting in our campus in Pune. Hoping to fully renovate it at some point," indicating that the legacy of these iconic buses may live on through dedicated enthusiasts.