The local trains are still not available for all and the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) remain to be the city’s lifeline with the support of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC). However, travel would not be easier any longer. The MSRTC has withdrawn their buses that were plying across the city as part of BEST’s fleet, on the insistence of the latter.
This would mean that there will be a lesser number of buses on road even as local trains are available only for select few as on essential duties as approved by the state government. “We understand that people will be slightly inconvenienced as there will be lesser buses on road. However, the number of wet lease buses has increased over the months in this lockdown to compensate for the same,” said a BEST official.
The BEST currently has 1,992 buses in its fleet plus 1,224 on wet-lease. Their own fleet has come down by more than 1,000 buses in this lockdown. However, to support them, MSRTC had provided upto 1000 buses since April 2020.
“The buses provided by MSRTC to us have been withdrawn. These buses were added to our fleet as local trains weren’t available at all. However, now that at least those on essential duties are travelling by local train, this decision has been taken,” said a BEST official on condition of anonymity.
Initially around May-June last year the MSRTC had provided 100-150 buses and gradually they added 100-200 buses each month. By November or so, the total MSRTC had provided 1000 buses to BEST for running them in Mumbai’s city and suburbs. Gradually the number of MSRTC buses were reduced as the first wave of Covid-19 slowed down, local trains were made available to many categories of people and BEST was running at full capacity.
“Currently, as per the latest guidelines, we too are expanding our routes and so these buses that were provided to BEST will come handy,” said an official from MSRTC.
Under the current ‘Break The Chain’ rules the BEST have been operating its entire bus fleet but standees aren't allowed. All through this lockdown, the BEST has played a role of lifeline of Mumbai’s public transportation. More importantly the MSRTC has been providing its buses for over a year. Sources said that there were 650 buses at the start of the year and now there were 200 MSRTC buses at the time of being withdrawn from service.