Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport

company_name = BEST Undertaking
company_type = Autonomous State-owned enterprise
company_slogan = Safety is our motto...
foundation = Mumbai (1873)
location = Mumbai, India
key_people = Uttam Khobragade, General Manager
num_employees = 44,000 (2005)
industry = Public transport, Electricity
products = none
revenue = profitRs. 2,353.40 cr. ($538.7m USD) (2004)
operating_profit = lossRs, 62.04 cr. ($14.2m USD) (2004)
homepage = []

The BEST (Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport)(Marathi: बृहन्मुंबई विद्युतपुरवठा आणि परिवहन उपक्रम / बेस्ट) is Mumbai's public transport service and electricity provider.

Established in 1873, the BEST operates one of India's largest fleets of buses.Originally setup as a tramway company: Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company, the BEST set up a captive thermal power station at Wadi bunder, Bombay in November 1905 to generate electricity for its trams. That positioned it to also supply electricity to the city of Bombay.

From 1926 the BEST started operating motor buses.

In 1947, a week prior to India gaining independence, the BEST became an Undertaking of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. It now operates 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.cite web|url=|title= Tram-Car Arrives|accessdate= 2006-10-12|publisher= BEST Undertaking]

The tram company

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 Colaba–Pydhone 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.

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.

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.cite web|url=|title= Electricity Arrives In Mumbai|accessdate= 2006-10-12|publisher= BEST Undertaking]

Advent of buses

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 owning a car forced many to switch to using the bus service. Despite huge losses, the company diligently its buses and trams to cater to the residents of Bombay.cite web|url=|title= Motor-Bus Appears|accessdate= 2006-10-12|publisher= BEST Undertaking]

The BEST Undertaking

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'.cite web|url=|title= B.E.S.&T. Company|accessdate= 2006-10-12|publisher= BEST Undertaking]

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.cite web|url=|title= Progress Of The Bus Service|accessdate= 2006-10-12|publisher= BEST Undertaking] 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.cite web|url=|title= Alternative modes of Transport|accessdate= 2006-10-12|publisher= BEST Undertaking]

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.cite web|url=|title= Electric Supply|accessdate= 2006-10-12|publisher= BEST Undertaking]


As of 2008, the BEST runs a total of 3,480 buses,cite web|url=|title= Composition of Bus Fleet|accessdate= 2006-10-12|publisher= BEST Undertaking] ferrying 4.5 million passengers over 365 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.cite news |author = DNA |url =|title = Now, BEST buses for the disabled|publisher = Daily News & Analysis|date = 19 August 2005|accessdate = 2006-10-12] 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.cite web|url=|title= Articulated Single Deck Bus|accessdate= 2006-10-12|publisher= BEST Undertaking] 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".

Also new routes comprising of AC CNG kinglong buses have been introduced recently .These buses have no.s starting with "BRTS".They have fare same as that of AC buses.

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.cite news |first = Olav|last = Albuquerque|title = BEST to hire buses from private operators|publisher = Times of India|pages = 7|date = 4 June 2005|accessdate = 2006-10-12] 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.cite news |first = Ashley|last = D'Mello|coauthors = Times News Network |title = BEST will have to wait to become smart|publisher = Times of India |pages = 3|date = 2 July 2005] In August 2006, BEST buses also introduced pay-phone system and CCTVs on its buses.cite news |author = DNA Correspondent|url =|title = BEST makes a smart move|publisher = Daily News & Analysis |date = 26 August 2006|accessdate = 2006-10-12]

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 6 people.

* 06 December 2002–Bomb goes off in a bus in Ghatkopar killing 2
* 28 July 2003–Bomb goes off in a bus in Ghatkopar killing 4

Electric department

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.cite news |first = Olav|last = Albuquerque |title = Short of funds, BEST looks to solar power |publisher = Times of India |pages = 3|date = 8 July 2005]


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.cite web|url=|title= Organisational Setup|accessdate= 2006-10-12|publisher= BEST Undertaking]

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.cite web|url=|title= Organisational Setup|accessdate= 2006-10-12|publisher= BEST Undertaking]

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.cite news |first = Girish|last = Kuber|url =,curpg-2.cms|title = Road warrior: City’s bus service proves it’s BEST |publisher = Economic Times|date = 15 August 2005|accessdate = 2006-10-12] The committee has a staggered two year term.inote|see MCGM|MGCM

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.


In the financial year 2004–05, the company earned Rs. 1,514.22 crore [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.] 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).

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). [1 lakh = 100,000.] cite web|url=|title= Finance|accessdate= 2006-10-12|publisher= BEST Undertaking] Newer management techniques, such as retrenching of excess staff (494 till date), 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.cite news |first = Manu|last = Joseph|title = May the Best Man Win|publisher = Times of India|pages = 3|date = 21 August 2005]

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.cite news |first = Olav|last = Albuquerque|coauthors = TNN|title = You could now approach BEST for some loose change|publisher = Times of India|pages = 3|date = 6 July 2005]

Though the BEST is a government-owned company, it does not receive any financial assistance from the BMC, or the state government. 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

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:cite web|url=|title= Awards|accessdate= 2006-10-12|publisher= BEST Undertaking]
* 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.

ee also

*Public transport in Mumbai
*Mumbai Suburban Railway

External links

* [ BEST Undertaking] – Official site of the BEST.



;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.

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