A dou­ble-decker bus sets the tone

Commercial Vehicle - - WHAT'S INSIDE -

Dou­ble-decker buses have been a cru­cial part of the his­tory of most In­dian cities, in­clud­ing Mum­bai, Chen­nai and Kolkata. For many decades since in­de­pen­dence, they were the main­stay of the pub­lic trans­port bus sys­tem. In Mum­bai they made for an ex­cit­ing ride along the seafront, and across the Ma­rine Drive. Dou­ble-decker buses ex­ist in Mum­bai even to­day, al­beit in less num­bers and on se­lected routes. Even to­day they are a com­mon sight in South Mum­bai and the Ban­dra-Kurla Com­plex. Op­er­ated by Bom­bay Elec­tric Sup­ply and Trans­port (BEST0, the dou­ble-decker buses of Mum­bai, have also found a place of pride in Bol­ly­wood movies. The high­est gross­ing movie in the 80s, and in­spired by the James Bond action thrillers of that time, Shaan fea­tured a BEST dou­ble-decker in a cameo role. It acted as a get­away city bus for the lead­ing ladies Parvin Babi and Bindya Goswami after they were chased by the lead­ing ac­tors Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor. Bachchan and Kapoor are de­nied en­try by the ticket is­suer who senses that some­thing is amiss. The two fol­low the bus, a BEST op­er­ated Ashok Ley­land Ti­tan. They chase the bus on foot, and sing a song to at­tract the at­ten­tion of the two ladies. They also chase on a bi­cy­cle, and some­how hi­jack the bus with the two ladies in it! Some­thing, that can hap­pen only in (Bol­ly­wood) movies, and drive away into the coun­try side, over a wind­ing road.

Trac­ing their ori­gin to open deck horse drawn car­riages in Eng­land, dou­ble-deck­ers ap­peared in In­dia in 1937 at Tra­van­core (Tri­van­drum) when the first Routemas­ter was im­ported. The same year dou­bledecker buses started ply­ing in Bom­bay (Mum­bai). In the late 50s, Ashok Mo­tors be­gan sup­ply­ing the Routemas­ter dou­ble-decker bus in In­dia. In 1953, the Gov­ern­ment Coach-build­ing Fac­tory at Chromepet, Chen­nai, an­nounced a ‘half-decker’, made en­tirely lo­cally. It was based on the Ashok Ley­land ‘Comet’ trac­tor and a Mahin­dra Owen trailer chas­sis. The bus body was built by Bom­bay-based Jayanand Khira and Com­pany. In the years 1954 and 1955, some 500 Ley­land Ti­tans were com­mis­sioned. In 1958, Ut­tar Pradesh Road­ways or­dered 65 Comet dou­ble-decker buses to add to their ex­ist­ing fleet. BEST placed an or­der for 20 Comets. Ahmed­abad Mu­nic­i­pal Trans­port Ser­vice placed a re­peat or­der for 15 Comets, and the Madras Gov­ern­ment Trans­port placed an or­der for 10 Comets with bod­ies to be built by them. The front-en­gine Ti­tan dou­ble-deck­ers ar­rived in 1967, and be­gan their jour­ney along­side the Comet semi-trailer ar­tic­u­lated dou­ble-deck­ers. Both were seen ply­ing in Mum­bai right up till the late 70s. The ar­tic­u­lated dou­bledeck­ers were qui­etly de­com­mis­sioned some­time in the mid-to-late 70s. The Ti­tan was built over a rigid chas­sis un­like the Comet ar­tic­u­lated dou­bledecker bus, and boasted of 50 per cent lo­cal­i­sa­tion. It could seat 58 pas­sen­gers.

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