MUMBAI WILL soon become the first city in the country to operate public buses without conductors. The city is set to launch an intelligent transportation system (ITS) that involves smart card-based access for passengers and ticket vending machines.
The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking will procure 50 air-conditioned mini-buses with a capacity of 29 (22 seats and 7 slots for standing passengers) each. The vehicles will be taken on a wet lease and specific routes will be chalked out for them.
Commuters will have to produce a card or pass in front of a machine at the entrance. “If the machine declines access, entry would not be allowed. We also aim to integrate cash or coin-operated ticket machines at the entry but that is at a planning stage,” said BEST General Manager Jagdish Patil.
The buses would be smaller than the usual BEST buses and the now-discontinued AC buses. They would be fitted with a technology to validate electronic wallets, passes or RFID (Radio-Frequency IDentification) cards.
“Alongside the non-AC and other regular Volvo buses that BEST plans to procure on wet lease, we will also introduce a proposal to procure buses with such new technology. They will be equipped with ITS, that specifically eliminates the need for conductors to issue tickets to passengers,” said.
He added that the buses, if inducted, will run at a lower operational cost than the present fleet.
“They (the private operators) will allow buses to run at Rs 30 per km instead of Rs 50 per km that is the cost incurred by an ordinary bus. It is likely to increase punctuality given that the buses will consume less space on the roads,” he said. The buses are expected to cost the undertaking Rs 25 crore.
For long, the BEST has been facing difficulties in operational maintenance of AC buses because of higher fuel costs and poor response from commuters because of higher fares. Last month, the utility discontinued around 250 AC buses.
“A lot of commuters complained against scrapping of AC bus routes calling it a regressive step. While the undertaking is not financially capable to buy the new buses, we plan to take them on wet lease, where the company will look after the maintenance and operational cost of the buses. The vehicles will also serve the needs of commuters who prefer to travel in AC buses,” Patil said.
He added that the BEST plans to save up on the operational cost of hiring employees, cut down on travel costs and promote the utility’s plans of going ‘ticketless’.
“We will be the first to have ITS-equipped buses that will simultaneously promote the idea of going ticketless. It also saves our cost of ticket printing and adds value to our brand,” Patil said. “Only these buses will be fitted with ITS, which means that there will be a need for conductors on other buses to be procured by the undertaking. In no way will there be retrenchment of staff. The move will also not affect future hiring of staff,” he added.
Till last year, the BEST needed to fill up posts of at least 300 conductors. The undertaking withdrew the option of hiring more staff later as part of its cost-cutting measures(THE INDIAN EXPRESS,2017).