On September 15, one of Mumbai’s famous double-decker buses will make its final run. The Mumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) is preparing to phase out the five remaining vehicles in its fleet.
The open-deck double-deckers will also be progressively phased out by October 5 and are popular with tourists for leisure rides to the Gateway of India and down Marine Drive.
According to BEST officials, there are plans to put one of these buses in a museum in order to preserve the memory of these vehicles.
An official statement from BEST states that the company plans to install electric air-conditioned double-deckers on tourist routes and that it would soon add 18 additional air-conditioned double-deckers to its fleet, of which 10 will be used in the suburbs and 8 in South Mumbai.
The double-decker bus previously ruled the city’s highways, while single-deckers were mostly used in the suburbs, historian Deepak Rao commented on the times as they have changed.
The fleet of twin-deck buses formerly totaled 242, he continued. The eventual phase-out of these buses, however, signals the closure of an era. Rao also stated his fondness for the older double-deckers without air conditioning and voiced the hope that BEST might think about reinstating a limited fleet of these buses.
The number of double-decker buses has decreased over time, dropping to 122 in 2010 and then to 120 in 2017. In its annual budget for 2019, BEST had earlier suggested retiring 72 double-deckers by 2020–21, which ultimately resulted in a fleet of 48 buses.
Regular commuter Gandharva Purohit said that “on July 8, a group of bus aficionados planned a joyride in a double-decker through South Mumbai via the Bandra-Worli sea link while taking in the sights along Marine Drive and the Gateway of India”.
Purohit expressed sadness about the retirement of these renowned Mumbai buses and emphasised the memories surrounding them. Ninad Kulkarni, a different commuter, recalled with affection “the special occasion of sitting in the front row on the upper deck, feeling the breeze, and taking in a wide-angle view of Marine Drive”.
A top BEST official made a suggestion that the reinstatement of a limited fleet of double-deck buses might be taken into consideration in the future.
Due to the fleet’s age and the lack of replacement buses, the service will be discontinued. On various dates in September and October, BEST will discard the final three old buses it owns. Tourists frequently choose these buses since they provide curated and uncurated rides at various fees depending on how long the ride is.
“The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has a long history of supporting tourists, as evidenced by the fact that the first open double-decker bus service for tourists was launched in 1997 in partnership with MTDC”, someone stated.