Last diesel-run double-decker bus of Mumbai drives into history

Source : PTI | As Mumbaikars bid adieu to the last diesel-run double-decker bus of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking, commuters and staffers reminisced about their journey in the iconic red vehicle that became a symbol of the city itself. “Hello, Mumbai Police? I’d like to report the theft of one of my most important childhood memories,” wrote industrialist Anand Mahindra on ‘X’, echoing the loss felt by many Mumbaikars.

The bus started its final trip on route 415 from the Andheri railway station to SEEPZ village in the western suburbs around 11.05 pm on Friday. After reaching the destination, it headed for Marol depot of BEST.

“I had a memorable journey with the double-decker bus for 15 years. It was ‘Mumbai ki shaan’ (Mumbai’s pride) and we are not going to see it again. We distributed old tickets to commuters during the final trip as a special ticket,” said Gopal Sutake, the conductor of the 415 route bus.

The era of red diesel-run double-deckers, introduced on the city streets 86 years ago, thus came to an end. New, shiny red-and-black battery-operated (EV) double-deckers have already begun to ply since February this year.

However, three open-deck diesel-run double-deckers used for sightseeing tours in South Mumbai are still in operation. These buses will go off the road on October 5, BEST officials said.

Decorated with garlands of flowers and balloons, the last diesel-run double-decker rolled out of BEST’s Marol depot on Friday morning and caught the eyeballs throughout the day. People were seen clicking photos and selfies inside and outside the bus.

“Bye bye #doubledecker buses. a lovely way to travel parts of the city. Nothing compares on the road not even my #Audi #Mumbai,” wrote Anand Sivashankar on ‘X’.

Members of the commuter group ‘Aapali BEST Aaplyasathi’ and a few bus lovers were present at Andheri East to bid farewell to the double-decker on its last journey.

Rupesh Shelatkar, president of ‘Aapali BEST Aaplyasathi’, told PTI that apart from common citizens, celebrities like Junior Mehmood, a famous Bollywood actor, were also present there.

A cake was cut at the hands of BEST drivers and conductors. The passengers and assembled bus lovers clapped their hands and expressed gratitude for the bus.

Shelatkar said that the bus was running full throughout the day as many people wanted to ride on it for one last time. Some wanted to experience the nostalgia of sitting in the front seat on the upper deck and enjoying the cool breeze.

“Since the iconic double-decker buses served Mumbai for the last 86 years, we wanted to give it a grand farewell as gratitude and we were really overwhelmed. But we urge the BEST administration to preserve at least a couple of these old double-decker buses in its museum, considering the love of Mumbaikars for this model,” he said.

The bus was to make its last trip from Andheri East at 9.19 pm, but due to public demand, BEST ran some extra services, he said.

It was an emotional day for Yash Vinay Surve, one of the commuters who took the final ride.

“I have spent my childhood enjoying rides in double-decker buses. We have requested the BEST administration to keep at least one bus of each model at its museum in Anik depot,” he said.

The first double-decker bus was introduced on Mumbai roads in 1937, a decade after BEST launched its bus service in the growing city.

Till the mid-1990s, BEST had around 900 double-decker buses in its fleet. The number began to decrease and around 125 buses were left in 2010. By 2019, it had dwindled to 50.

“A total of 900 air-conditioned double-decker bus services will be provided to the people of Mumbai by the end of July 2024,” the BEST said in its release.

“Since the newly-introduced buses are air-conditioned and electric, the future generations will miss out on the joy of racing up the stairs to get a seat on the top deck and enjoying the view with the breeze hitting faces,” Varun Dikshit, a commuter said.

Another commuter Santoshi Mishra created a special memory with her daughter by taking the last ride on the bus from SEEPZ.

“I have so many memories of travelling in the double-decker bus as a child with my father. I can’t get those days back. But I created a special memory with my daughter as we took a ride on the bus from SEEPZ. She played my favourite song “Ae dil hain mushkil jeena yaha, Jara hatke jara bachke ye hain Bombay meri jaan” on her flute during our last ride on the bus,” she said.