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Maintaining The BEST Buses


BEST’s fleet of 4,685 buses serves as a lifeline for many city commuters. Rolling out of the depots fresh each morning, these buses gather a lot of dust, muck, grease and dirt on the way.

At the end of the day, when these buses return to their sheds, they get spruced up with brushes and surfactants, getting fit and clean to begin journey the next day. “As a service provider, it is our (BEST) duty to provide commuters a pleasant journey,” says Deshpande.

Everyday, 4,000 buses go through the wash process while some of the buses are manually swept and some others go through the rigorous cleaning process. At Wadala depot alone, one-eighth of the fleet is thoroughly cleaned from inside-out everyday.

“We have a daily maintenance schedule. At least 25 buses are cleaned at night and the remaining buses available during the day are sent for manual cleaning or to the automatic washing plant depending on the requirement. Normally in a day, 40-45 buses are washed at the automated washing plant installed in every BEST depot. After four-five days, these buses return to get a thorough exterior cleaning. In this way, every bus is washed at least two-three times in a week,” adds Deshpande.

BEST has around 42 staff members at the Wadala depot to clean and maintain 187 buses stationed there. The depot follows the BEST maintenance programme and the buses are cleaned at least twice in eight days with the help of indigenously made automated vehicle washing device. The cleaning staff work in two shifts depending on the fleet and are supervised by the mukadam.

“At the end of the day before entering the parking bay, the security officer hands over the bus-card of each driver to the foreman, who puts his remarks on the type of cleaning and maintenance needed. We also have surprise checks once a month,” says Deshpande. Authorities from BEST headquarters visit various depots for ‘snap check’ during nightshifts to ensure the daily maintenance is carried out properly.

At any given point of time, in case the driver or conductor finds that the bus is dirty or if a commuter throws up, the bus is immediately taken to the nearby terminus, where the BM (Bus Miscellany) does spot cleaning with tools like brush and cloth. The same bus is taken up for rigorous cleaning when it returns to the depot. The bus-card, carried by the driver, has records of complaints from commuters and the technical glitches beside the maintenance record.

“Compared to regular buses, maintaining the air-conditioned buses is much easier as the commuters understand the importance of cleanliness and prefer to travel in clean surroundings. Thus, the amount of litter and other wastes generated from these buses are much less. Moreover, the interiors of the air-conditioned bus are made of wood and we manually clean the insides with tools. The exterior of the bus is also manually cleaned with brush and soap-solution,” explains Deshpande.

One difficult area to clean is between the windowsill and the protection bar, which does not get cleaned in the automatic washing plant. The results can be achieved only through manual cleaning with the help of soap-solutions and brush. The soap-solution is an industrial liquid soap procured from a local company. This solution has to pass through a quality test conducted by BEST’s Plant and Maintenance department at the Dadar workshop. It takes one and half litres of liquid soap diluted in nine litres of water to clean one bus. The soap solution is thoroughly checked to ensure no damage is caused to the glossy exterior and also to the user’s hands. After brushing with liquid soap, the bus is washed with a high pressure jet. At least 25-30 buses are washed every night.

The automatic washing system is equipped with soap solution and nylon brushes, which work on the front, rear and sides, as the bus moves back & forth on the stationary rails of the washing plant. “All 25 bus depots in Mumbai have water tanks. The Wadala depot has an underground water tank with the capacity of 10,000lt. One bus requires around 200lt of water for washing. The exterior of the bus is cleaned on a cycle of three-four days at the automatic washing plant. We manage to clean all the buses easily with the available water.

Deshpande says, “We feel Mumbaikars in general care for their environment and city. There are a few miscreants who spoil the beauty of the city. Maintaining or cleaning the bus fleet has never been a tough task for BEST. We have adequate staff working in shifts and we practise mechanised cleaning to maintain these buses. The passengers are paying for a clean and pleasant journey and it is our duty to provide them the same.”

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