The civic-run Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking on Tuesday decided to reduce bus fares in the metropolis to boost ridership and income.
As per the decision taken at the Undertaking's Special Committee meeting, the minimum non-AC bus fare has been reduced from Rs 8 to Rs 5 for the first five kilometres, while maximum fare for this class has been capped at Rs 20.
The minimum AC bus fare has been brought down from Rs 20 to Rs 6 and maximum fare has been kept at Rs 25.
Once implemented, the fare slab for non-AC (regular) buses will be Rs 5, 10, 15 and Rs 20, while it will be Rs 6, 13, 19 and Rs 25 for air-conditioned buses, an official said.
"Now the proposal will be sent to BMC and the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Transport Authority (MMRTA) for final approval. The date of implementation of these reduced fares will be notified later," the BEST official said.
"With this move, we hope to attract larger numbers of passengers who otherwise are moving over to cab aggregators.
We also intend to introduce measures as part of Mumbai's revamp under the Smart City initiative," he said.
BEST, with a fleet of 3,337 buses, including 120 double- deckers, has so far failed to recover even its cost of operation, and its ridership over the years has fallen from 45 lakh a day to 27 lakh.
It operates 483 routes in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai and its daily loss is estimated at around Rs 2 crore.
'Amchi Mumbai - Amchi Best', a forum of transport experts, welcomed the move but with a note of caution.
Forum co-convener Hussain Indorewala said, "We agree with fare reduction, but it has to be complemented by other measures like dedicated bus lane on all arterial roads to ensure buses get priority."
"In addition to this, commuters should be concerned about contractor-run buses because it is uncertain whether these buses are safe or reliable," he added.
Senior BEST Committee member Ravi Raja also hailed the decision, but reminded the administration that it is going to make an annual loss of Rs 125 crore due to fare reduction.
"I hope BEST has a plan to help itself financially. It must take measures to ensure buses are run efficiently on all the routes, and closed ones are revived," Raja said.
After the decision, Yuva Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray visited the BEST headquarters in south Mumbai and said the move was not taken because the Maharashtra legislature is in session."If this was the case, then we would have taken this decision before Lok Sabha elections. This decision has been taken for last mile connectivity and a comfortable journey," Thackeray claimed.