If everything goes as per plan, city commuters may soon be able to travel in mini air-conditioned (AC) buses of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking, as the first lot of the 450 wet-leased AC and non-AC buses is expected to join the fleet in three months.

In less than 24 hours after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the BEST Workers’ Union, a recognised labour union, BEST on Tuesday said 25% of the buses will be supplied within three months. The remaining 50% will be supplied in the fourth month and the balance 25% in the fifth month. “BEST has issued work orders to contractors,” said Balasaheb Zodge, a spokesperson of BEST.

The BEST undertaking has given the work order for the diesel-run buses to two private contractors – Anthony Garages and Shri Krupa Services Private Limited. It includes 200 mini non-AC, 200 mini AC and 50 non-AC midi buses. Small-sized midi and mini buses are being hired, so they can manoeuvre faster on congested roads.

BEST officials said they are expecting to get the first lot of 20 e-buses this month. For these buses bought on joint ownership, BEST will get a subsidy of Rs 54 crore from the union government under the FEMA scheme of the Ministry of Heavy Industries.

In the wet lease model, BEST will have to deploy its conductor to issue tickets, while the private contractor will own and maintain the buses, besides providing the driver. BEST authorities think it will reduce the operating cost of the buses by Rs 9-35 for a km, depending on the types of buses.

Before this, BEST was to get 80 wet-leased electric buses. Fearing staff cut and privatization of the undertaking, the labour unions had challenged the decision in the Bombay high court.

The undertaking signed an MoU with the labour union on Tuesday, assuring them that they will always maintain the fleet size at 3,337 and there won’t be any staff cut. The union then agreed to withdraw the petition in the HC.

First Published:
Jun 13, 2019 04:49 IST

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