Mumbai: 60% of the iconic two-story will leave the roads in a year

MUMBAI: BEST has announced that it is likely that 60% of its two-story fleet will be eliminated in a year, to be replaced. The company currently has 120 double-decker buses, of which only 48 will remain.

Double-decker buses were introduced in Mumbai in 1937 as horse-drawn vehicles, BEST was the first transport company in the country to have them. The first stage of the motorization was to replace the horses with wheeled engines, the passenger units being trailers. The maximum size of the two-story fleet was in 1947, in 242.

BEST's general manager, Surendrakumar Bagde, said a final decision on bus replacement was still to be made. We will see what can be done, he said. A senior company official said double-decker buses generated losses, with high operating costs.

The two-story must continue fighting for heritage despite losses, says historian

Travelers and transportation experts are not happy with BEST's announcement to reduce its two-story fleet. They say that the two-story have the advantage of transporting more passengers while they occupy the same space on the road as a one-story bus and suggest that the two-story should drive in the arteries during peak hours.

“If the buses have completed their useful life, BEST should buy new double-decker buses. BEST authorities should ensure that these iconic buses are visible on the road, ”said Vikas Pednekar, who regularly travels by bus in southern Mumbai.

But BEST says the two-story ones are causing losses. “You need two drivers to run each bus. The operating cost is almost 1.5 times that of a normal bus. Consume more fuel. Another problem is that double-decker buses cannot travel on all roads, since unlike one-floor buses, they cannot be made to take sharp turns, since doing so is risky due to stability factors, said a BEST official.

The city's historian, Deepak Rao, said buses have their own charm. “A few decades ago, those with two floors dominated the roads in the city of the island, while those with one floor were mainly operated in the suburbs. This was when the two-story fleet was over 200. Unfortunately, the fleet has been cut over the years and only 120 buses remain. BEST should ignore the losses and preserve the buses for their equity value, ”he said. Rao recalled how in the past he would take his friends from abroad on a double-decker bus from Sassoon Dock, showing them Colaba, Regal, the museum, Fountain, CSMT, Crawford Market and the Metro cinema area. It was Mumbai Darshan for my friends and the front window seat on the upper deck was a pleasure, he said.

Currently, two-story passengers transport passengers on 16 routes, with good passengers on busy routes such as CSMT to Nariman Point, Colaba to Worli and Kurla to Santacruz. One of the most popular routes is CSMT to the Backbay depot, which passes through Marine Drive.

Transportation activist A V Shenoy of the Mombai Mobility Forum said at least 100 of two floors should be preserved. These buses mean nostalgia, he said. “You just need to modify the design a bit to allow the entry/exit of two doors, introducing another door at the front of the bus. It will ensure faster dispersion of travelers. ”