India: BEST’s first electric double decker bus hits Mumbai roads

The electric supply and transport administration to induct 900 new air-conditioned double decker e-buses this year


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An AC double-decker bus after the start of its operations in Mumbai. — PTI
An AC double-decker bus after the start of its operations in Mumbai. — PTI

Published: Tue 21 Feb 2023, 11:21 PM

The first air conditioned electric double decker bus (e-bus) of the civic-run Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) received an overwhelming response as it was introduced on the city roads on Tuesday. But concerns were also expressed about its seating arrangement.

BEST currently has fewer than 50 diesel-run double decker buses, and the working life of most of them is about to end this year. Hence, the BEST administration has decided to induct 900 new AC double decker e-buses this year. The first double decker e-bus was introduced on the crowded route number 115 between CSMT and NCPA in South Mumbai from Tuesday morning.

The red and black e-bus — one of 200 buses BEST has hired on wet lease from Switch Mobility, a subsidiary of Ashok Leyland — caught eyeballs, prompting onlookers to capture it on mobile phone cameras.

A day before, BEST had announced that only those having a Chalo app or card will be allowed to travel on the bus, but it led to a chaotic situation during the first ride, forcing it to deploy a conductor onboard for next rides.

Several bus enthusiasts specially came from various parts of Mumbai to experience the first ride of the e-bus which has special features like CCTV, mobile charging points, GPS, digital destination board and public addressing system, among others.

“I came all the way from Panvel to enjoy the first ride,” said Ninad Mestri, adding that the bus is beautiful, spacious and the air-conditioning was powerful. But some passengers expressed disappointment about the exterior colour scheme, lack of sufficient height on the upper deck and the seats.

“BEST buses mean red colour, but this bus looks more black instead of red. I did not like this colour scheme. Red should have been the predominant colour,” said Avinash Jadhav, an Andheri resident.

Several passengers were unhappy with the seat alignment, though they found the fluorescent light green colour and blue cushions of the seats attractive. The seats slope towards the front, making the occupant slide off in case of hard braking, some passengers pointed out. Concerns were also expressed about the front side staircase and the two seats next to its base. There is no landing space for passengers coming down from the upper deck as these two seats are just a feet away from the last step.

“Most passengers said these two seats should have been removed. Also, passengers face problems while going up,” said a member of the bus crew. A former BEST panel member expressed surprise about how the testing and registering authorities allowed seats next to the staircase without sufficient landing space. A former RTO official said as per the Automotive Industry standards (AIS-139)for double decker buses, a bus should have two emergency exits for the upper deck, and the staircase is considered as an emergency exit.

As those two seats could prove problematic in case of emergency evacuation, they should have been removed, he said.

Hemangini Patil, deputy RTO of Vashi RTO (MH-43) where the bus was registered, said that before the registration of the bus, their officials thoroughly checked all the measurements and ensured that the bus seats are as per the Automotive Research Association of India- approved design layout.

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