World Bank opens purse strings for BEST

Impressed with its performance and reforms in the last three years, the World Bank has offered the BEST undertaking a Rs 400-crore loan to purchase 1,000 new buses. The World Bank had earlier given a loan of Rs 125 crore for acquisition of 644 buses under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP). BEST aims to increase its fleet from 3,850 to 4,000 by March 2009. Uttam Khobragade, BEST general manager, said the World Bank recently carried out an assessment to check the progress of the MUTP. He said the WB team was satisfied to see that all new buses were run on compressed natural gas (CNG), which is a much cleaner fuel than regular diesel. “At present, close to 21% of BEST buses are run on CNG. Our intention is to convert another 700 buses from non-conventional fuel to CNG,’’ he added.Khobragade said nearly 2000 bus stops were given a new swanky look and there are plans to upgrade equal number in future. “We also plan to add new features to the bus from inside. The vehicles would be fitted with newly designed grab handles and CCTV surveillance systems,’’ he said. He said BEST plans to start mini buses in areas where bigger buses cannot navigate the roads.

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