Citizens' Issues
BEST will start a dedicated Mumbai Airport shuttle but it wants a dedicated lane

BEST, the public transport service provider in Mumbai, will operate a bus shuttle from the airport to various parts of the city only if it gets a dedicated lane. But experts have criticised the BEST’s pre-condition as unacceptable

reported yesterday how the absence of a dedicated bus shuttle at the Mumbai airport is leaving passengers stranded at the airport terminal for as much as two hours sometimes. (Read, You have landed at Mumbai. Where's the shuttle to go home? Part 1.)  The problem is the scarcity of pre-paid taxis which are also expensive and the refusal by regular autorickshaw and taxi drivers to ply over short distances.

Transport experts are unanimous that a special bus shuttle with adequate luggage space for passengers going to and coming from the airport is required urgently. It should be well-connected with South Mumbai and the central and western suburbs, on the lines of a similar service that is available in Bangalore and Hyderabad.

However, BEST, the public bus transport operator that has a monopoly in Mumbai, has a different take on this. When Moneylife asked BEST why Mumbai doesn't have a bus shuttle transport to the airport like that in Bangalore and other cities, the chief public relations officer replied, "We are ready to start a dedicated bus service to the airport only if we are provided with dedicated lanes by the government and MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority)."

This reply has surprised activists, who say that the demand is unviable, in view of the overall transport situation and the traffic congestion in Mumbai.

"I am surprised that BEST needs a bus lane for starting a bus service to cater to all persons and passengers going to or coming from the airport to various parts of the city," says Ashok Datar, transport expert. "Literally thousands of people visit the airport every day, the proportion of those using buses is negligible as the buses are away and apparently meant for the employees. There are no bright indicators on the availability of buses to various areas with enough info and publicity. This is the basic reform."

BEST, currently, has a bus service to the airport. But it is a regular service used mainly by the staff working at the airport. "The current service by BEST is a regular one. Even for that the frequency of buses is less, and worse, the bus stops are often not visible," says Mr Datar.

Sudhir Badami, another expert, believes that the BEST should focus on the viability of starting such a service. "Such a reply demanding a dedicated lane to provide a dedicated bus service to Mumbai airport is inappropriate. Instead, the BEST should focus on bargaining on the viability of the buses, the fares, which RTO wouldn't allow to hike, and overall economic viability of the service. If they don't consider such things, then even giving a dedicated lane would prove unviable."

Jagdeep Desai, architect and founder trustee of the Forum for Improving the Quality of Life in Mumbai Suburbs, says that the demand for a dedicated lane is only an excuse not to provide the service. "Looks like some excuse to not give a service. Incidentally, some of the BEST buses of the JNNURM King Longs (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) were leased to Air India to transport passengers to and from the aircraft to the airport. This means they have surplus buses. Besides, the auto and taxi unions, as well as the fleet taxis, would also have a strong say in resisting such convenient and comfortable services."

Activist lawyer Mohana Nair recalls one such bus service by the BEST to the airport. "BEST had started a bus service from the airport (Sahar) via Santacruz to Colaba. It was not air-conditioned, but it was one of their star buses with a place in the centre for luggage. I remember seeing it in Sahar and talking to the conductor who seemed very proud of what they were doing, but said most people did not even know such a service existed. This was maybe three years ago, and it was discontinued as they did not have enough people travelling on it," she told Moneylife.

However, activists point out that the bus service should have enough luggage space, with a frequency of 15 minutes and the shuttle service should be easily identifiable.

Bangalore International Airport (BIAL) has a Volvo bus service, by the name of Vayu Vajra, that offers air-conditioned comfort to passengers and is available round the clock, providing connectivity between important areas of the city and the airport.

Similarly, in Hyderabad, the Aero Express bus service to the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport is a non-stop airport shuttle service from the airport connecting important destinations in the city. It is run by the GMR group. At Delhi airport, a recently started train service, the Delhi Airport Express, provides easy transport to passengers.



nagesh kini

4 years ago

BEST's demand for a dedicated lane will open a Pandora's box with Ambulances and school buses also demanding use of the lane.
When the buses are such a success in Hyderabad and Bengaluru there is no reason they can't make it work in Mumbai. To augment revenue, they may be allowed to pick citizens willing to pay higher fares. I've seen airline ground staff availing the buses in Bengaluru. Where there is a will there will always be a way. The BEST Committee Chairman and the GM need to be brought around by convincing them of the Hyderabad and Bengaluru success stories.


4 years ago

Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, the highest tax paying city in the country struggles for smaller amenities like a basic airport shuttle service, a metro rail line, upgradation of local train systems. Why?
Its home to the biggest industralialists, filmstars and politicians, who are busy doing charity at all places except mumbai. U can see them going to smaller villages and building houses. but no one is ready to rebuild Dharavi. U can c them developing roads and planning cities but for mumbai, they can even voice their concerns for a dedicated bus service... above all the people of mumbai are to blame.. This mumbai which was everyone's has now become a Maharashtrian mumbai.. Others are threatened be it muslims or biharis or madrasis or gujratis.. Now it is no ones home.. no ones land and so people come, work and die without even bothering to complain.. God SAVE my Mumbai.. my home..

D Sukumar

5 years ago

It is true that BEST had introduced a bus service from the International airport via the domestic airport to south of Mumbai via Dadar,plying every half hour. The staff manning the bus was so enthusiastic that they used to call out for passengers at the airport, but for some strange reasons the bus service was discontinued, probably due to lack of clientele. I had myself availed the service a few times and it was very convenient. It is a shame that a city like Mumbai which boasts of the best public transport in the country does not have an affordable service from and to the airports from different parts of the city.

Adi Daruwalla

5 years ago

The demand by BEST is viable partially. On the eastern and western express highways and expressways. one lane (service roads) can be dedicated for the BEST Rapid transport system. If you dont provide this lane, then how do you expect them to provide speedy and reliable service. On the other roads BEST has to make do with the exisiting infrastructure. Then there has to be proper flow of information informing people about this service. The time frame cannot be every 15 minutes as it has to be a financially viable solution. The arrival and departure times have to be studied and schedules made accordingly. Touts have to be removed those who run to load bags etc. A study and analyss needs to be done and then a project implemented.

Nagesh Kini FCA

5 years ago

Who says BEST has the monopoly on Mumbai's roads. Schools have fleets of buses. Corporates have buses for transporting their staff. Mumbai darshan buses run all over. Buses on dedicated runs shouldn't be a big deal. These are days of liberalization, BEST has to concede.

a v moorthi

5 years ago

In Hyderabad the Airport is some 35 Kms from Secunderabad Railway station and the builders of the Airport GMR run an A/C Volvo bus on either direction over 40 trips each round the clock for flat rate of Rs 180/- are so they drop and pick passengers from about 8 points enroute and cover the distance in about 75 minutes. So if the Airport builders GVK want definitely they can offer a service with out depending on BEST.

BEST should made to run this sort of a service because as a Public transport provider they are bound to offer such charges with special tarrifs and specific stops.

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