Bombay Electric Supply and Transport

BEST Undertaking
Autonomous State-owned enterprise
FoundedMumbai (1873)
HeadquartersMumbai, India
Key peopleUttam Khobragade, General Manager
IndustryPublic transport,
RevenueRs. 2,353.40 cr. ($538.7m USD) (2004)
Employees44,000 (2005)

The BEST (Marathi: बृहन्मुंबई विद्युतपुरवठा आणि परिवहन उपक्रम / बेस्ट) or the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport is Mumbai's public transport service and electricity provider. The government-owned organisation, which was set up in 1873, operates one of India's largest fleets of buses. Originally setup as a tramway company, it branched out into supplying electricity to the city in 1905, and later into operating buses in 1926. The BEST is run by the city's municipality as an autonomous body.

The bus transport service covers the entire city and also extends its operations outside city limits into neighbouring Navi Mumbai, Thane and Mira-Bhayandar. In addition to buses, it also operates a ferry service in the northern reaches of the city. The electricity division of the organisation is also one of the few electricity departments in India to garner an annual net profit.

Until 1995, BEST stood for Bombay Electricity Supply and Transport. After the name of the city was formally changed from Bombay to Mumbai, this was also reflected with the adjustment to Brihanmumbai, which means "Greater Mumbai".



The idea of a mass public transport system for Mumbai was first put forward in 1865 by an American company, which applied for a licence to operate a horse-drawn tramway system. Although a licence was granted, the project was never realised, owing to the prevailing economic depression in the city. The end of the American Civil War, during which Bombay had made vast strides in its economy by supplying cotton and textiles to the world market, was the reason for the economic downturn.

Later, on 1871-11-27, a notice in the Times of India newspaper put by the Bombay Omnibus Service, proposed to set up a bus service between Malabar Hill and Fort. However, the proposed monthly pass fare of thirty pounds proved to be too expensive, and the tender was promptly abandoned.[1]

The tram company

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A BEST tram of the early 20th century.
The birth of the BEST dates back to 1873, with the setting up of the Bombay Tramway Company Limited, which was given the licence to operate trams in the city. The Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) was given the right to purchase the company after twenty-five years, or after seven years thereafter. In 1874, the Bombay Tramways Act was enacted after the contract was formally signed between the Municipality and the Company to start such a transport system.

On 9 May 1874, the first horse-drawn carriage made its début in the city, plying on the ColabaPydhone via Crawford Market, and Bori Bunder to Pydhonie via Kalbadevi routes. The initial fare was three annas (15 paise), and no tickets were issued. As the service became increasingly popular, the fare was reduced to two annas (10 paise). Later that year, tickets were issued for the first time, to curb the increasing ticketless travel.

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Gas lamps of the early 20th century
In 1899, the company applied to the BMC, for operation of electrically operated trams. Due to the high investment required, the company suggested that the BMC should waive its right to take over the tramways, which was to take place in 1901 according to the contract signed in 1874. However, the BMC decided to take over the company anyway. The takeover created several legal problems, which lead to the foundation of a new public company, the Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company Limited, which bought out the Bombay Tramway Company in 1905.[1]

That same year, the company also acquired the British Electric Traction Company, which owned a 1,100 hp (820 kw) generator and serviced 107 consumers. Two years later, the first electric tram debuted in the city. Later that year, a 4,300 kw steam power generator was commissioned at Wari Bunder. In 1916, power purchase from the Tata Power group, a privately owned company, was started and by 1925, all power generation was outsourced from Tata.[2]

Advent of buses

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The city's first bus started operations in 1926.
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Single Deck bus heading for Gowalia Tank.
Since 1913, the company had been pondering over starting a motorised bus service. The main factor against its introduction was the high accident rate for a similar service in London. Finally, after years of debate, the company came to a decision on 10 February 1926, to start a bus service later that year. On 15 July 1926, the first bus service in India was started on three routes. Despite stiff opposition and protests by taxi-drivers, the service ran without a hitch, transporting six lakh (600,000) passengers by the end of that year. The following year the number had increased to 38 lakhs (3.8 million). The trams meanwhile, due to their lower fares, were relegated to being a poor man's transport.

The Indian independence movement's call for mass non-violent strikes and general civil disobedience, led to regular service disruptions, leading to the company incurring huge losses in 1929. The next year was a particular bad year for the company in the wake of the Great Depression. To remain solvent, the company decided to introduce discounted fares for short routes, and increase its coverage to the northern portions of the city. In 1937, the introduction of double-decker buses proved to be extremely popular.

World War II brought with it the rationing of fuel and a shortage of tires. The increasing costs of owing a car forced many to switch to using the bus service. Despite huge losses, the company diligently plied its buses and trams to cater to the residents of Bombay.[3]

The BEST Undertaking

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Electric House in Colaba area is the headquarters of the BEST.
After World War II, and India's independence, the management of the company was taken over by the BMC in 7 August 1947, and the company was renamed 'The BEST Undertaking'.[4]

As the company grew post-independence, it increased its fleet from 242 to 582 buses over the next decade. In 1949, it took over the Bandra Bus Company, which used to ply buses in the suburbs.[5] In 1951, the electricity division switched over from direct current (DC) to the more efficient alternating current (AC). The company launched its services in the eastern suburbs in 1955. That year, the Undertaking and private operators went to court, with the BEST asking for a complete closure of the private companies. The case dragged on for four years before the Supreme Court of India granted the organisation a complete monopoly over bus services in the Greater Bombay area. In 1964, due to high operational costs and poor public support, its long-running tram services were terminated.[6]

The company achieved the status of being the first company in the country to issue computerised billing in 1974. In 1994, the company introduced electronic meters, in a move to replace the less accurate electric meters. Following a Supreme Court directive, the company has been gradually phasing out old buses and introducing new buses which comply with the Euro II pollution control standards.[7]


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BEST- Tata starbus
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A modern BEST double decker bus
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A modern BEST bus powered by CNG, indicated by the green stripe on the side of the bus.
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A Vestibule BEST bus in Mumbai

As of 2006, the BEST runs a total of 3,400 buses,[8] ferrying 4.5 million passengers over 340 routes, and has a workforce strength of 38,000, which includes 22,000 bus drivers and conductors (this comes to an average of 11.2 employees per bus). Single decker buses make up the bulk of the fleet, followed by the double-decker buses and air-conditioned buses, which ply on select routes. Following court directives, the company launched limited 'disabled friendly' buses on exclusive routes in 2005 that have low ramps and space for wheelchairs.[9] The company also plies vestibule buses on the city's two express highways. These buses have a capacity of 110, and were introduced in 1997.[10] All buses are tagged with a route number and its corresponding destination. They are displayed in the front (in Marathi), and on the side (in English).

Routes are categorised under four categories: Ordinary, Limited, Express and Special. Ordinary routes are the most common, with buses on these routes stopping at all stops. Buses plying on these routes are identified by a white route number on a black background.

Buses on Limited routes stop only at important places and skip all the minor stops in between on high volume routes. They have a marginally higher fare and are identified by the route number in red on a white background. The route number ends with LTD.

Special routes ply on select routes covering train terminuses and the central business districts. These routes have a fare marginally higher than the 'Limited' routes and are identified by the route number in white on a red background.

Express routes service long distance intra-city routes, and have fares that are the same as the Special routes, but with lesser number of stops. These buses have route numbers indicated in red on a yellow background. These buses do not skip the flyovers, like other buses.

Air-conditioned buses fares a little over four times the fare of an 'Ordinary' route covering the same distance. These buses have route numbers starting with A.

In June 2005, in order to cut costs, BEST decided to hire buses from private operators instead of procuring new buses. These buses would look the same as a regular bus, but the maintenance and salaries would be taken care of by the private operators.[11] The BEST also plans to install GPS systems on all its buses, to monitor them in realtime. It also plans to reintroduce pre-paid smart cards along selected routes. This service was installed in 1998, but was terminated in 2000.[12] In August 2006, BEST buses also introduced pay-phone system and CCTVs on its buses.[13]

Besides buses, BEST also operates a ferry service (since 1981) in northern Mumbai, across the Manori Creek. The barges operate at regular intervals across the shallow creek linking Manori to Malad.

Terror Attacks

The B.E.S.T bus service has suffered 2 bombings killing around 6 people.

Electric department

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Power, supplied by the Tata Group is brought to the city across creeks in pylons like these.
Since 1926, the BEST has been sourcing its power from Tata Power, part of the Tata Group conglomerate. The power cables are laid underground, which reduces pilferage and other losses that plague most other parts of India. The nominal rating of power supplied by BEST is 3-phase, 50 Hz, 220/110 kV. Unlike the transport company, the electricity department services only the Mumbai City area, and not the suburbs. It provides power to over a million residential and commercial establishments and over 33,000 street lights within the city limits. As of 2000, BEST supplies a total of 700 MW, with a consumption of 3,216 GWh.[14]

The electricity department has 6,000 employees. The city has three 110 kV, twenty-two 33 kV and 22 kV substations. BEST has a distribution loss of around 10% (2001), among the lowest in India.

In 2003, the Electricity Act (2003) came into force, which has made it mandatory for electricity providers to generate at least 10% of their power through renewable sources. To comply with this act, BEST plans to install photovoltaic cells in each of its 25 depots. They also plan to use solar power in gardens and street lighting where the demand is low. Another option being considered is the possibility of using the 7,000 tonnes of garbage disposed by the city on a daily basis, which can be potentially used to generate 350 MW of electricity.[15]


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Management structure of BEST
The company is headed by a General Manager, currently Uttam Khobragade. The traffic department is overseen by an 'Assistant General Manager (Traffic Operations)', and assisted by the 'Chief Traffic Manager (Sr.)'. The 'Chief Traffic Manager' oversees the five BEST zones, each headed by a 'Traffic Manager'. Each zone consists of 5 to 6 depots, whose operations are overseen by an 'Assistant General Manager (Traffic Operation)'. A 'Traffic Superintendent' or 'Assistant Traffic Superintendent' heads each depot.[16]

The electricity department is headed by a 'Deputy General Manager (Electric Supply)' (DGM (ES)). Assisting him is an 'Assistant General Manager (Electric Supply)' (AGM (ES)), in charge of planning, new projects, construction, street lighting, computer applications and the generation cell. The 'Chief Engineer - Electric Supply (CEES)' is in-charge of material testing and the Standards, Meters and Relays and the Review departments. Two 'Chief Engineer - Distribution' (CED) officials manage the two administrative zones.[17]

The BEST enjoys a high degree of autonomy under the BMC; the latter approves its yearly budget and permits increases in bus fares when required. A body of 17 Municipal Corporators from the ruling party in the BMC form the BEST Committee. The committee, headed by a Chairman, keeps a tab on the undertaking's daily operations.[18] The committee has a staggered two year term.

Among its future plans is the "digitisation project", wherein all underground cables, sub-stations, street lights and bus-stops would be tracked digitally through the geographical information system. It also plans to connect all its electricity meters through a network, so that the readings can be taken remotely, and in realtime, thus obviating the need for monthly manual door-to-door inspection.


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Electricity revenues: Blue–Income, Red–Expenditure, Green–Net profits

In the financial year 2004–05, the company earned Rs. 1,514.22 crore[19] from its electricity department, and 839.18 crore from its transport department. Profits from its electricity department totalled Rs. 152.82 crore (35m US$), and losses in its transport department totalled Rs 212.86 crore ($48.8m), giving the company a net loss of Rs. 62.04 crore ($14.2m).
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Transport revenues

For the financial year 2005–06, BEST is expected to earn Rs. 1,540.13 crore ($352.92m) with a profit of 140.8 crore ($32.3m) from the electricity department alone. However, its transport department is expected to earn 948.68 crore ($217.39m), with a loss of 140.30 crore ($32.26m). This gives it an estimated net loss of Rs. 50 lakhs ($114,575).[20][21] Newer management techniques, such as retrenching of excess staff (494 till date),[18] and the closure of less patronised routes, have reduced the losses in recent years, from a high of Rs. 175 crore ($40.1m) in 2001.[22]

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Net profit/loss.
Daily earnings from its transport system is Rs. 2 crore ($458,450). It collects Rs. 70 lakh ($160,450) worth of five rupee coins daily, Rs. 48 lakh ($110,000) worth of ten and twenty rupee notes, and Rs. 60 lakh ($137,535) worth of fifty rupee notes, through its fare collection system. This has led a unique situation wherein it has accumulated a surplus of short change. In July 2005, the company floated tender inquiries to 54 banks to exchange the loose change, which totalled 4.67 crore ($1.07m). However, none of the banks sent in a single bid, some citing that their vaults are full, and others saying it would be unprofitable for low denominations, given security considerations.<ref name"Loose Change">Albuquerque, Olav, TNN. "You could now approach BEST for some loose change", Times of India, 6 July 2005, pp. 3.2005"> 

Though the BEST is a government-owned company, it does not receive any financial assistance from the BMC, or the state government.[18] BEST also earns revenues by way of advertisements on its buses and bus-stops, and through rent from offices on owned properties. The BEST, being a public utility company, cannot increase electricity and bus fares to maximise its profits. An increase, when effected, is usually carried out to curb losses due to inflation. BMC approval is needed before such an increase goes into effect.

Culture and awards

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BEST bus tickets
BEST has been a quintessential part of life in Mumbai. The red double decker buses, modelled on the Routemaster buses of London, are one of the defining characteristics of the city. When BEST decided to do away with the double-deckers for operational reasons recently, public protests and sentiment forced it to continue with the service. A move to colour all its buses saffron from red in 1997 also drew in sharp criticism, resulting in the red colour being retained. Bus drivers and conductors have come in for praise in the media for their service during the 2005 Mumbai floods, when they ensured that all the stranded passengers were dropped safely to their respective destinations. A total of 900 buses were rendered useless due to the deluge.

The organisation has received the following awards for safety and management:[23]
  • The prize for the second best production achievement by an urban transport body in the country for the year 1982.
  • The second prize for production achievement in Urban Transport during the year 1984.
  • A memento for the Administrative Report and Statement of Accounts of the Undertaking for the year 1983–84 awarded by the selection committee nominated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.
  • The first place and the Best production achievement award in the category of urban transport for the year 1986–87.
  • National Productivity Award for the year 1991–92.
  • Award for the best passenger-safety record for the year 1994.
  • The prestigious award for the Best Passenger-Safety performance in Urban Transport in the whole country instituted by the Association of State Road Transport Undertaking (ASRTU) for the year 1995–96.
  • International Road Safety Award for the year 2003.

See also

External links


1. ^ Tram-Car Arrives. BEST Undertaking. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
2. ^ Electricity Arrives In Mumbai. BEST Undertaking. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
3. ^ Motor-Bus Appears. BEST Undertaking. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
4. ^ B.E.S.&T. Company. BEST Undertaking. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
5. ^ Progress Of The Bus Service. BEST Undertaking. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
6. ^ Alternative modes of Transport. BEST Undertaking. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
7. ^ Electric Supply. BEST Undertaking. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
8. ^ Composition of Bus Fleet. BEST Undertaking. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
9. ^ DNA. "Now, BEST buses for the disabled", Daily News & Analysis, 19 August 2005. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.2005"> 
10. ^ Articulated Single Deck Bus. BEST Undertaking. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
11. ^ Albuquerque, Olav. "BEST to hire buses from private operators", Times of India, 4 June 2005, pp. 7. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.2005"> 
12. ^ D'Mello, Ashley, Times News Network. "BEST will have to wait to become smart", Times of India, 2 July 2005, pp. 3.2005"> 
13. ^ DNA Correspondent. "BEST makes a smart move", Daily News & Analysis, 26 August 2006. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.2006"> 
14. ^ Electricity. Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
15. ^ Albuquerque, Olav. "Short of funds, BEST looks to solar power", Times of India, 8 July 2005, pp. 3.2005"> 
16. ^ Organisational Setup. BEST Undertaking. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
17. ^ Organisational Setup. BEST Undertaking. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
18. ^ Kuber, Girish. "Road warrior: City’s bus service proves it’s BEST", Economic Times, 15 August 2005. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.2005"> 
19. ^ 1 crore = 10 million. (See Indian numbering system). Rs 1 cr. = 230,000 US$ approx. Exchange rate: Rs. 43.6 = 1 US$ as of 2005-08-27.
20. ^ 1 lakh = 100,000.
21. ^ Finance. BEST Undertaking. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
22. ^ Joseph, Manu. "May the Best Man Win", Times of India, 21 August 2005, pp. 3.2005"> 
23. ^ Awards. BEST Undertaking. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.


Prose contains specific citations in source text which may be viewed in edit mode.
Web references
  • May the Best Man Win; Manu Joseph; Times of India, Mumbai; pg-3; 2005-08-21
  • BEST will have to wait to become smart; Ashley D'Mello/Times News Network; pg-3;Times of India; 2 July 2005.
  • Short of funds, BEST looks to solar power; Olav Albuquerque; Times of India; pg 3; 2005-07-08.
  • Exit clause introduced in BEST-TPC pact; Times News Network; pg-4; Times of India; 2005-07-07.
  • BEST to hire buses from private operators; Olav Albuquerque; Times of India; pg 7; 2005-06-04.
  • You could now approach BEST for some loose change; Olav Albuquerque/TNN; Times of India; pg 3; 2005-07-06.
Sustainable South Bronx (SSB) is a non-profit environmental justice organization in New York City's South Bronx neighborhood, founded and led by Majora Carter.[1]
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Mumbai (Marathi: मुंबई Mumbaī
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tram, tramcar, trolley, trolley car, or streetcar is a railborne vehicle, lighter than a train, designed for the transport of passengers (and/or, very occasionally, freight) within, close to, or between villages, towns and/or cities, primarily on streets.
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Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (formerly Bombay Municipal Corporation) or the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (Marathi: बृहन्मुंबई महानगर
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Thane (Marathi : ठाणे) (formerly Thana) is a city in Maharashtra, India, part of the Mumbai Conurbation, northeast of Mumbai at the head of the Thane Creek and is almost submerged in Mulund, a suburb of Mumbai with a mere road dividing both cities.
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Mira Road is a suburb in mumbai just north of the city of Mumbai. It is part of the Mira-Bhayandar Municipal Corporation and Thane district but is also considered under Mumbai. Mira Road is a railway station on the Western railway line of the Mumbai suburban railway.
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Bhayandar is a region in Thane District near Mumbai, on the west coast of India. A 2002 estimate put the population of the Mira Bhayandar municipal area at 520,301. The population consists of a varied mix of castes/cultures and religions typical of a burgeoning suburb.
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The Times of India

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Malabar Hill is a small hillock in southern Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, and is the location of the Walkeshwar Temple, founded by the Silhara kings.
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