The iconic red bus of BEST has undergone a major revamp—with the first-ever automatic, clutch-free transmission for drivers, an in-bus passenger announcement system, a central air circulation system to beat humidity, eight mobile charging points for passengers, an emergency exit door and a considerable gap between seats.
These are among the several new features in the new buses, three of which joined the BEST fleet on Monday. The latest inductions are expected to reverse the gradual decline in patronage. In the past seven years, the number of daily commuters on BEST buses has steadily fallen to 30 lakh from 42 lakh.
Four more buses will hit the roads during the weekend, and a total 30 will be inducted in the fleet by month-end. “We are procuring 303 such commuter-friendly buses for the undertaking, and hope to woo more passengers in the coming weeks,” said BEST general manager Jagdish Patil.
Assistant general manager Suresh Pawar said, “The buses procured this month will be attached to the Backbay depot and we will deploy them across the city on several routes. The colour of these buses is bright red and attractive (similar to the ones plying in Navi Mumbai), the design is modern and there is enough space for standees.”
In fact, the new bus is a metre long—the length increased from 11m to 12m. Entry and exit gates have been widened, from 600mm to 650mm, to cater to rush hour.
At you enter from the rear door, there is a wide open space for standees—two seats facing the door have been knocked off from the old bus design—and there is a first-of-its-kind emergency exit door, which can help evacuate passengers in a crisis situation. This, apart from the emergency window on the rear.
Pawar said that drivers will undergo two days’ training on auto transmission as they will no longer need to use a clutch, which would get damaged in the past due to overuse. “We have laid emphasis on driver comfort in these non-AC buses,”‘ he said. For instance, there is personalized air-circulation vent for the driver to keep him cool in the humid weather, the steering wheel and driver seat are adjustable and there is a rearview mirror through which the driver can see every passenger in the bus. There is a passenger announcement system for him and another long mirror (longer than the current design) which helps him view the road and oncoming vehicles from the left side.
“The long mirror will also help prevent mishaps as most accidents occur after bikes and pedestrians are hit by the left rear side of the bus,” said Patil.
Officials said a batch of 30 buses may be delivered this month. This means, only 16% of the funds sanctioned by the BMC for bus procurement can be utilized this financial year and nearly Rs 75 crore could lapse, sources said. BEST panel members have demanded that the bus manufacturer should be imposed with hefty penalty for delay in delivery of the 303 new buses.