Around two years back when the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) announced that Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport (NMMT) and Bombay Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) plying buses in their respective corporation limits could move in and around each other’s zone, it set off intense competition between the two public undertakings.
“NMMT, the undertaking of Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) has been running its service in and around Navi Mumbai since 1996. Initially, it started with 25 buses and presently it has around 260 buses, of which 10 are AC Volvo, 60 are very old buses and the rest are in fairly good condition. It has plans to bring in 150 buses, which include 20 AC and the rest non-AC low floor CNG buses by the end of December through the funds from Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission,” says Jitendra Papalkar, general manager, NMMT.
Brihanmumbai Electr-icity Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking which had been serving Mumbai since decades extended its service to Navi Mumbai, Thane district limit in the ’80s. This was done to link Mumbai with Navi Mumbai. Those days City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) used to be the only developing and administrating authority of Navi Mumbai. Presently, it has around 250 buses plying from Mumbai to Navi Mumbai.
Initially, buses of both the undertakings were using the bus depot developed by CIDCO. Very soon NMMT started developing its own depots. Due to threat of business, it did not allow BEST buses to enter its Airoli and Mhape depots. Later, when NMMT started its first fleet to Mumbai, it was blocked by employees of BEST, reportedly under the orders of their general manager Uttam Khobragade.
It took more than a year for NMMT to restore its service in Mumbai. This time it introduced 10 AC Volvo buses at 20 minutes’ frequency from CBD (Swami Vivekanand Nagar) to Bandra for the ticket price of Rs 45. It was also announced that very soon fleets will also be started for Dadar, Ghatkopar, Santacruz, etc. This time the BEST restricted the NMMT buses to enter its Bandra depot.
For decades BEST had been plying its non-AC fleet on this route so naturally its business was hit. In response, BEST has now launched its AC bus service from CBD to Santacruz via Bandra at the ticket price of Rs 60. The latter also runs its non-AC bus from Nerul to Santacruz via Ghatkopar, drawing tremendous response.
BEST decision of not initiating its AC buses from Nerul to Santacruz via Ghatkopar and instead going from CBD has hotted up the competition. Shaken but unpertubed NMMT has also taken away its major plan of Santacruz. BEST AC buses have also been restricted from entering any bus depot in Navi Mumbai.
These AC buses have already taken away the business of private transport and tourist vehicles and given handsome savings to commuters. However, passengers are now expecting a fall in ticket charges as the heat between the two undertakings is rising day by day.
Observers say that both the undertakings are meant for the welfare of the people and they have no right on any property. It’s their responsibility to serve the people without any bias.
—Jaspal Singh Naol