₹ 8-12 hike in fares on long routes unfair: Commuters
Sena Against Wet-Leasing Of Midi Buses
Mumbai: The BEST panel’s vote for an increase in bus fares has not gone down well with city’s commuters. Ravindra Gaikwad, a regular commuter from Thane, slammed the decision, saying, “A Rs 8-12 hike on longer routes is uncalled for.”
BEST buses run across the island city and the suburbs, besides Thane and Navi Mumbai, ferrying 30 lakh commuters daily.
The fare hike proposal was part of reforms suggested by the administration to pull the transport undertaking out of the red.
According to the 2018-19 budget, BEST will incur losses of up to Rs 880 crore, and if the reforms are incorporated, it can reduce its losses by nearly Rs 650 crore. The fare hike is expected to fetch up to Rs 60 crore annually.
While the Shiv Sena voted in full strength for the hike, BJP members abstained from voting. Incidentally, those from the Congress, NCP and MNS were not present at the budget meeting. Sena members, though, objected to a few proposed reforms—mainly “wet-leasing” of buses.
In a wet-lease, a private contractor provides a bus along with a driver. The maintenance and insurance cost is also the contractor’s responsibility while BEST provides a conductor and earns from ticket sales.
“We have cleared the fare hike proposal and other reforms. But we have put the brakes on wet-leasing of buses,” said Shiv Sena’s Suhas Samant.
The ruling party also objected to a cut in dearness and a few other allowances of BEST staffers. “BEST will eventually merge with the BMC, and therefore there is no need to cut these allowances,” he said.
BEST general manager Surendrakumar Bagde said, “There is no need to oppose wet-leasing of buses as it is successful in several cities. It will bring down operational costs and we can ply midi buses to reduce congestion and improve frequency.”