It's hardly been two months since the BEST started one of its most talked about BRTS-2 service plying from Dahisar to Backbay depot and instead of attracting more passengers it's more likely to lose even those passengers that have become regulars, all thanks to its lousy timing. The reason for delay? Not familiar with the bus controls, claim drivers. Traffic, insists the management.
Neha Upadhyaya, a regular passenger who takes the bus from Dahisar bus station and travels till Vakola has experienced the tardy schedule of the bus service several times. She says, "It's really frustrating having these buses turn up late all them time. The other day, the 9.00 a.m. bus turned up at 9.40 and this has been happening for quite sometime. Why is the BEST running this service and charging us a hefty ticket if they can't maintain punctuality?" She was shocked when the driver of her bus told her that the delay was being caused as he was not very much familiar with the bus since he was driving it for the first time after being trained for just ten minutes.
For driver Shyamrao Chavan (name changed to protect identity) the fact that BEST were not training the drivers for driving these huge kinglong buses was a worrying fact. "I have driven the simple BEST bus for 22 years but this thing has advanced technology as everything operates with touch buttons. Its like from driving rickshaw, you are suddenly put into a Mercedes. We drive it slowly and with a lot of caution so that we can first get used to the controls. We have also been told not to go over a speed of 20 kms per hour. But then this leads to delays for passengers," Chavan informs.
Another BRTS-2 driver adds, "Before we started as full time drivers for the normal BEST buses we were trained intensively for weeks. But in this case, we are just handed the bus without even getting a test ride and detailed instructions. We face a lot of difficulty when passengers ask us to switch on the radio or television or even control the cooling of the air-condition unit as we have no idea where the switches and buttons are. So instead of paying attention to our driving we are busy doing a trial and error of the various buttons."
"We were astonished when we realised that both the driver and conductor had no idea about the basic functioning of the bus. They also did not know which were the bus stops that this service was supposed to halt at and which flyovers were supposed to be taken enroute," informs Manjeet Singh, a feature film director and a regular on the same bus. Singh however is quick to blame the BEST administration as he claims it is their responsibility to ensure that each and every driver and conductor was well trained. He further pointed out that this also showed how lightly BEST took passenger safety.
On their part, sources from BEST, acknowledged the issue of delays in the service timing and cautioned that the buses could get damaged if the drivers were not properly trained to handle these buses. When contacted Uttam Khobragde, General Manager, BEST undertaking, was quick to blame the traffic. "We have asked for separate lanes and until this is implemented, there will be delays due to the traffic situation ."
• Ticket to Gundavli (Andheri) in a limited bus from Dahisar bus station- Rupees 15
• Ticket to Gundavli in BRTS-2 (Andheri) FROM Dahisar bus station- Rupees 33
• All buses running late from varying from fifteen minutes to even half an hour at times
• No sunscreen on the windows
• Conductors and drivers not properly trained
• Change not available with conductors
Features of BEST’s Kinglong buses
• Power Steering
• 6 geared (normal buses have four gears)
• Automated-shut doors
• Digital display board
• Television with audio and videodisc player
• Control buttons on dashboard for air-condition, display boards, radio and televisions
• Effective braking system
• Automated rear view adjusting mirrors
What I was taught
Shyamrao Chavan (name changed to protect identity)
“I was taught during one of the my lunch sessions and was told to report for the next day shift to drive this bus. The training in-charge pressed one button after the other and rapidly listed off the various functions. He warned me not to accelerate the bus too much to avoid damage. The next morning I was in the driver’s seat and had no clue what I was doing. I couldn’t remember anything the instructor had told me. I simply pressed the various buttons and tried to learn on my own. We should be trained at least for fifteen days to drive this computerised, hi-tech machine as it is very different from our regular BEST buses.”