Mumbai: Conductor-less buses draw BEST panel fire

The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) move to run buses without conductors came in for strong criticism from the undertaking’s committee members during a meeting on Thursday. The members pulled up BEST for shoddy implementation of the plan, highlighting the hardship to both staff and passengers.

They demanded that “conductor-less” operations should be restricted to only wet-lease buses.

The criticism came a day after Sunil Gaikwad, the lone conductor deployed on a double-decker bus plying on route no. 415, was injured after he slipped from the stairs of the bus and twisted his leg while issuing tickets. Senior BJP leader and committee member Sunil Ganacharya demanded that a report should be submitted to the committee on the revenue BEST is earning from “conductor-less” services. “It not only poses a risk to conductors but also to passengers,” he said.

BEST is operating double-deckers on five routes — from outside Bandra station to BKC 1 and BKC 3, from Andheri to SEEPZ, from CSMT to Nariman Point and Backbay depot. A single conductor on the bus is catering to passengers boarding from stops en route, while four conductors are deployed on either ends of the routes to give out tickets to passengers before boarding.

According to BEST, the monthly salary of conductors on one route comes to Rs 35 lakh while the monthly revenue through ticket sale is less than Rs 30 lakh. “The salary of conductors is more than earnings, leave alone cost of driver, fuel and maintenance. We are only trying to make it operationally viable,” a BEST official said.

Srikant Kawtankar, a committee member, however, spoke on the plight of conductors deployed at bus stops with no access to toilets. “While deployed on buses, conductors can visit toilets at the depot but what about those on duty at stops on the way,” Kawtankar said.

“Conductor-less” operations have been implemented on 86 routes. On 45 routes, 325 wet-lease buses are operating while on another 41 routes 224 buses owned by BEST are plying. Committee members demanded that services without conductors be restricted to only wet-lease buses.

BEST General Manager Surendra-kumar Bagde urged passengers to cooperate as the “conductor-less” services were aimed at improving services. “We will look into the concerns and suggestions put forth by members,” Bagde said.