The Bombay Tramway Company Limited was formally set up in 1873. The Mumbai Municipality was given the right to buy up the concern after the first 25 years or after every period of 7 years thereafter. After this contract was entered into between the Bombay Tramway Company and the Municipality, the Government of Mumbai enacted the Bombay Tramways Act, 1874, under which the Company was licenced to run a tramway service in the city. The tram-cars were of two kinds-those drawn by one horse and those drawn by two. In 1905, a newly formed concern, “The Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company Limited?bought the Bombay Tramway Company and the first electrically operated tram-car appeared on Mumbai’s roads in 1907. The passing years aggravated the problem of rush-hour traffic and to ease the situation, double decker trams were introduced in September, 1920.
Mumbai saw its first bus run on 15th July, 1926. The people of Mumbai received the bus with enthusiasm, but it took quite sometime before this means of conveyance really established itself. For several years, it was looked upon as transport for the upper middle classes. Those were the days when the tram was the poor man’s transport, carried one all the way from Sassoon Dock to Dadar for a mere anna and a half, that was nine paise. The bus fare for the same journey was four annas, that is 25 paise.
In response to the pleas made by the Government and the Brihan Mumbai Mahanagarpalika, the Company extended its services to the northern part of the city in 1934. Double deck buses were introduced in 1937 in order to cope better with the growing traffic. The first Limited Bus service in Mumbai, and probably the first in the country as well, started running in 1940 between Colaba and Mahim.
Pursuant to the option given to it under the Deed of Concession granted to the Bombay Electric Supply and Tramways Co.Ltd, the Brihan Mumbai Mahanagarpalika acquired on 7th August,1947, the assets of the combined Undertaking, namely the operation of tramways and distribution of electricity in the city of Mumbai as a going concern. By mutual agreement, the Corporation also took over the operation of the bus services, which was run by the B.E.S & T Company Ltd.
Thus, the Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Company was municipalised and came to be known as Bombay Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking . The Undertaking has completed 50 years of its municipalisation on 7th August, 1997.
The city of Mumbai has grown from a small trading center 50 years ago to be rightly called the first commercial capital of India. In almost all spheres of human activity. Mumbai has so many ‘firsts?to its credit. Likewise the Brihan Mumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking, popularly known as ‘BEST?has scored many ‘firsts?in the country's life and established many records.
The intricacies of Mumbai’s transport system can easily baffle any new comer from the countryside. To use a figure of speech, the city inhales and exhales through the BEST bus services. The changeover from horsedriven trams to buses has been spectacular.
When the Corporation took over the Company in 1947, there were 242 buses in operation on 23 routes and these buses carried 2.38 lakh passengers per day. At present, there are 3380 buses carrying 45 lakhs passengers daily on 335 routes. Special transport arrangements are made and extra buses under various Action Plans are operated during the year on various social/ religious occasions. The Undertakings also pays special attention to operate extra buses to clear the stranded passenger traffic on account of dislocation of Railways, heavy rains and similar such events. The Undertaking also operates extra buses on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays to clear the excursion traffic at various picnic points. The undertaking has been endeavouring to ease the journey of lady passengers, particularly working women by introducing ‘Ladies First? buses at various points where the ladies are given priority while boarding the bus at the starting point.
Faster clearance of traffic in the megapolis of Mumbai with less number of vehicles has been receiving attention for sometime. It is with this background that the Undertaking has introduced Vestibule buses as a part of its fleet on the eve of Golden Jubilee. Since these buses carry about 110 passengers each, they clear the passenger traffic faster, particularly during the peak hours.
The undertaking has been fully conscious of the alarming levels of pollution in cities. With modern and reliable technology, the Undertaking has been making constant efforts not only to keep pollution level under control, but minimise it. Keeping this view in mind, the Undertaking has introduced CNG buses, i.e. buses run on Compressed Natural Gas in the Golden Jubilee year. CNG run buses being almost pollution free as compared to the Diesel run buses, their introduction on Mumbai roads has proved to be a boon in the realm of Public Transport.
The Undertaking has a well-equipped Training Center for the traffic staff and designed program to re-educate them on such relevant topics as fuel conservation, safety measures, behaviour with the public etc. Training is also imparted in Refresher Courses to improve driving habits of the drivers under which officers check the habits of drivers constantly and as a result of which there is a great reduction in accidents. In the Refresher Courses, the stress is on an image revamp from a mere BEST employee to a concerned individual who cares for passenger comfort. The accident-prevention wing of the BEST has an accident prevention van with ‘safety slogans?and equipped with instructive ‘audio-visual?programs.
As regards BEST’s electric supply side, in the year 1905, the B.E.S.& T Co.Ltd., commenced the supply of electrical energy by erecting its own generating station with a total capacity of 4,300 KW. This was later abandoned in favour of a station of larger capacity constructed in 1912 at Kussara Basin. This station was closed down in 1925, after which all the Company’s requirements were obtained in bulk from M/s. Tata Hydro Electric Power Supply Co.Ltd, With the growth of the electrical distribution system, difficulties were experienced in the maintenance of the electrical pressure within the prescribed statutory limits. The Company than decided to establish two High Voltage Receiving Stations at Grant Road, and Apollo where large bulk supply transformers provided with on-load tap changing equipment had to be installed for maintaining regulated voltage at the consumer’s premises. These two new stations were, however, actually commissioned in 1949, i.e. after the B.E.S. & T Co.Ltd., was acquired by the Municipal Corporation.
In 1947, the Undertaking supplied electricity to 1,08,241 consumers through 247 sub stations. Today, it caters to 8,20,000 consumers through 1,773 substations. Street lamps in those days numbered 2,215 between Colaba to Mahim and Sion. Today, it provides electricity on streets through 34,764 street lamps. It is a well-known fact that the municipal limits of Mumbai were extended from time to time to cover more and more suburban areas and the BEST had to expand its bus services to cater to the entire municipal area. However, the electricity supply of BEST was restricted to the old city area which is equal to about 75 sq.kms.Nevertheless, BEST has been endeavouring to give its services to the electric consumers by way of guaranteed electric supply. The consumers are so used to the service that even an interruption of a few minutes is resented by them. The supply is restored within the shortest possible time as the BEST is well-equipped with latest fault-locating and testing instruments and highly skilled staff.
The Undertaking has always been foremost in adopting technical innovations in its day to day functions. One such project is that of digitisation of records of underground cables. The Undertaking has planned a digitization project where the land base and data of underground cable network, equipments, substations and loads would be digitized. This would be of immense help not only in the location of cable faults which would reduce interruption time, but also computer-aided design of electricity distribution system with minimum distribution losses. Under this programme, it is proposed to digitize 5,000 kms., cable network of BEST. Presently, 800 city survey maps are updated manually to incorporate the changes regarding cable services, joints etc. This will be computerized totally which will help to get underground and overground information at any point in the area of supply easily. Another important scheme is of electronic meters. There are about 9 lakh meters, most of which are electro-magnetic type. However, in view of the errors in such meters and corresponding loss in the revenue, they are being replaced in phases by electronic meters which are more accurate.
The Undertaking has also undertaken schemes to computerize the Consumers and Commercial departments of the Electric Supply Division and to decentralize most of the consumer/commercial services at all levels. These schemes will prove to be a boon for the consumers who will be able to solve most of the problems in connection with the grant of new connection, additional load, redressal of other grievances in regard to high bills, change of name etc; through a single window redressal system. This is another important step in the Undertaking’s march towards ever improving heights of excellence.