New buses acquired by the BEST (Picture Courtesy: Swapnil Kasable)

The BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport) Undertakings is inducting new buses to its existing fleet of 4,100 buses. The undertaking had placed an order to acquire 303 such buses from Tata Motors at a cost of INR 5.1 million each. The city has received first lot of 3 buses and will induct the same immediately. It will induct around 33 new buses by March 2017.  The remaining buses will be inducted by July-August 2017. It is important to hightlight that these are first of its kind buses in India, having front engine with automatic transmission.

Mumbai suburban railways are the city’s lifeline and carry around 7.0 million passengers per day. BEST buses are the second largest mode of mass transport. But the ubiquitous red bus no longer holds the same importance it once did for commuters. BEST has seen a major reduction in its ridership in last one decade. In 2004-05, BEST had a fleet of 3,400 buses and used to carries around 4.5 million passengers daily. Currently, it carries around 3.0 million passengers with 4,100 buses.

One of the key reasons of decline is the use of old buses and increase in travel time. The commuters are looking better facility and comfortable ride. The buses are facing major competition from other modes of transport, mainly personalized vehicles. The commuters are switching over to other modes of transport. The undertakings hope that new buses will attract more passengers and make the commute more passenger-friendly.

Key Features

Some of key features of new Hi-tech BEST buses are:

a)    More legroom - The new buses will offer more legroom to passengers as they are 12 metres long, a metre more than the existing ones, and have more space between seats.

b)    Easy access - Both entry and exit gates have been widened from 600 mm to 650 mm to make it easier for passengers to get into or out of during rush hours.

c)    Charging points - The buses are equipped with at least eight mobile charging points for passengers and a dedicated charging point for conductors to charge their ticketing machine.

d)    Better ventilation - The buses are equipped with a central air circulation system that will remove excess humidity and odour from the bus.

e)    More space for standees - The seats facing the rear door have been removed to make space for more standees.

f)     PA system - The driver will get access to a passenger announcement system that will be used to relay important communication.

g)    Driver comfort - An air-circulation vent has been added to keep the driver’s surrounding pleasant. He will also be able to adjust both steering wheel and driver seat for an optimal driving position.

Latest Technology - Front Engine with Automatic Transmission

The buses are equipped with automatic transmission which makes them easier to drive in city traffic, don’t require frequent clutch replacements and make the commute less jerky. Most of the bus operators have reported that automatic transmission helps to reduce driver's fatigue, which result into less numbers of accidents.

Some of the key benefits of Automatic Transmission in buses are:

  • Safety -The engine's power is delivered to the wheels all the time, and there is no power-disconnect, hence the driver has greater control over the bus. Also the drivers’ hands are always on the steering wheel providing more efficient maneuvering and reducing accidents.
  • Reliability and Availability – Buses with automatics experience a very high reliability and availability.
  • Acceleration and Productivity - Acceleration of Buses with automatic transmissions is faster than Buses with manual transmissions as there is no power interruption. Faster acceleration means faster average speeds, improved maneuravibility, passenger comfort, and more revenue earning per bus.
  • Passenger Comfort – Very smooth gear shifts – Planetary Gears that change gears so smoothly that driver and passengers often do not even feel the gear change
  • Driver Comfort - Drivers find it easy to drive as both hands remain on the wheel

Further, In order to improve customer convenience, the committee also approved the proposal to provide free WiFi connectivity in over 4,015 AC and non-AC buses in February 2017. The undertaking will invest around INR 20 million in the project and will launch the same by November 2017.

A detailed view of the new buses (Courtesy: Times of India)