BEST, MSRTC take retail route to save on fuel cost

With the Centre having hiked the price of diesel for bulk consumers, the cash-strapped Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking and the state transport utility are, for the first time ever, planning to send their fleet to petrol pumps to buy diesel on a daily basis.

General Manager O P Gupta has instructed BEST officials to scout for pumps with sufficient space where buses can be refuelled. "We have begun the process of identifying pumps in the island city and suburbs. From next week, we will be scheduling a significant number of buses to be sent to retail pumps at night. The idea is to save money, not create chaos at pumps," Gupta said.

Similarly, Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) has requested private pumps to supply fuel for its buses via tankers from Thursday. The move will reduce the MSRTC's annual burden by Rs 525 crore, a spokesperson said.

Earlier this month, the central government hiked the price of high-speed diesel for bulk consumers such as public transport undertakings by Rs 11.95, while the hike for retail consumers is 50 paisa.

If BEST, whose annual requirement of high-speed diesel is 35,236 kilolitres, continues as a bulk consumer, the hike will translate into an additional expenditure of Rs 8.5 crore in the current fiscal year. Thereafter, BEST will have to shell out an additional Rs 43 crore per year to buy diesel.

Gupta is also speaking to top government officials to seek relief. He will meet central government officials on February 11.

"The top brass of seven other transport undertakings will participate in this meeting. If we don't get subsidy, we will be left with no option but to hike fares. This is what we want to avoid," Gupta said.

BEST to lay additional power cables

BEST plans to lay additional cables underneath suburban railway tracks to augment the network of a 33KV receiving station at Mahalakshmi, which will strengthen the power supply network in south Mumbai.

However, before starting work, BEST will have to pay Rs 6.4 crore to Western Railway as a lease amount for utilising its space in the past and adding additional cables. "BEST has been delaying payment of lease rent since 2009. If we do not make the payment now, we will not be able to lay additional cables. We do not want a repeat of the 2011 power outage in south Mumbai," BEST general manager O P Gupta said.

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