Fuel price hike burdens BEST, upsets its break-even plan

With the latest fuel price hike adding an annual burden of Rs 43 crore to its expenditure, the cash-strapped Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport (BEST) undertaking is now unsure of breaking even in the current fiscal and making a slight profit in the next fiscal as it had earlier projected.

The administration has, however, for now ruled out increasing the quantum of the tariff hike that it had proposed in the 2013-2014 budget draft. The BEST had proposed a one-rupee hike for ordinary bus tickets and a five-rupee increase for air-conditioned bus tickets in the next fiscal.

"The mindset cannot be that increasing the fare is the only way to recover expenses. Instead there should be cash subsidies for public transport undertakings," BEST General Manager OP Gupta said.

The budget proposal for 2013-14 is scheduled to come up for discussion in the civic administration in the next few days. The BEST has a fleet of 4,445 buses of which 1,467 buses run on high-speed diesel. The undertaking requires about 35,236 kilolitres of high-speed diesel annually.

"Even the last time that the fuel price was increased, our expenditure increased by Rs 23 crore annually. With this hike, within a span of a few months our expenses have shot up by Rs 66 crore. This is the direct impact, there may even be other indirect increases in expenditure due to this hike. My efforts to get balance in the budget and get BEST back on track have been derailed," he added.

The BEST was earlier expecting a loss of Rs 1.26 crore in 2012-13 and a surplus of Rs 56.04 crore in the next fiscal after having posted losses for nearly ten years.

Earlier this month, the central government hiked the price of high speed diesel for bulk consumers by a steep Rs 11.95. For the current fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, the BEST will have to shell out an additional Rs 8.5 crore due to the hike.

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