Thursday, May 22, 2008

BEST to get 75 ‘free’ Volvo buses soon

In order to target the upwardly mobile commuter and boost its revenue flow, the BEST Undertaking has added the Volvo to its fleet. The first 15 luxury air-conditioned coaches will roll out by the end of June.

For this high-end outing, BEST has tied up with a Mumbai travel operator for the free supply of 75 Volvos in the next few months. In exchange, the firm will sell advertising space on the bus, said BEST officials.

Although BEST has one of the biggest fleets in the country, 3,500 buses, and a whopping daily commuter base of 45 lakh, its losses have touched Rs 200 crore, with bus fares having to be substantially subsidised. The basic fare for the first two kilometres is just three rupees.

The Volvo is an attempt to focus on higher revenues and win over those who take their car to work. Pravin Chheda, chairman of BEST, said, “We will replace our ageing air-conditioned buses with the plush Volvos with video screens for passenger entertainment.’’ The 51 existing AC buses will be decommissioned when the Volvos hit the road.

Chheda said the Volvos will be supplied by Friendship Travels. “They will give us the bus absolutely free of cost and will recover the cost through advertisements over next 15 years,’’ he said. The buses will be run by experienced drivers and conductors of BEST. “We will foot the fuel bill and collect the ticket revenue. There will be no sharing at all with the private party,’’ the chairman clarified.

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