After a delay of several months, the first air-conditioned double-decker electric bus in the country was inducted into the fleet of BEST — the civic transport public body in Mumbai, on Monday, officials said.
The wet-leased e-bus will be registered at the Regional Transport Office before it hits the road for the public. This bus is likely to ply on the routes in suburbs where conventional double-decker buses that run on diesel are currently operated.
Lokesh Chandra, general manager of the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking, said they are scheduled to receive 4-5 more double-decker air-conditioned e-buses in the next 8-10 days and a total of 20 such buses before March-end from Switch Mobility, a subsidiary of automobile manufacture Ashok Leyland. The number of the double-decker e-buses will reach 200 by this year-end, he added.
“Today is a historic moment. Mumbai’s iconic double-decker bus is being introduced in public service in a new electric double-decker form. Very soon this bus will be dedicated to the public,” Chandra said, adding these buses will be operated on the traditional double-decker bus routes in south Mumbai and city suburbs.
Unlike the conventional double-decker versions, the new e-bus has two doors and an equal number of staircases for accessing upper decks. The new buses will be equipped with facilities like digital ticketing, CCTV cameras, live tracking, digital display, and a panic button for emergencies, among others.
The fare of these buses will be the same which is applicable for single-decker AC buses.
According to BEST, the double-decker e-buses’ passenger carrying capacity is almost double compared to their single-decker counterparts. The new buses have a seating capacity of 65 and including standing passengers, they can carry 90 to 100 passengers.
The prototype air-conditioned e-bus of the county was unveiled on August 17, 2022, by Union minister Nitin Gadakari in Mumbai when BEST announced to introduce double-decker e-bus in public service from October 2022 after completing the certification and registration process.
Switch Mobility executives said the certification was delayed mainly due to the revised certification process of the Centre.
As the certificate was received from the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), line production of the double-decker e-buses will be undertaken at a workshop in Patalganga in the Raigad district of Maharashtra.
Currently, BEST operates less than 50 double-decker buses, including a few open-deck buses, that operate on diesel. Most of these buses are on the verge of the end of their Codal life (normal average life of machine/equipment as per working shift). Therefore, BEST has decided to introduce the double-decker e-buses on a wet lease wherein the maintenance of vehicles and the driver expenses are borne by private operators.
Chandra said the BEST currently has 3,300 buses, including 400 single-decker e-buses, which transport around 34 lakh passengers daily. The BEST has planned to add 3,000 more e-buses including 900 double-decker e-buses in its fleet and awarded contracts.