Farewell to Mumbai’s Iconic Double-Decker Buses

The End of an Era of Double-Decker Buses

After serving as iconic sightseeing buses for tourists and daily commuters for over eight decades, Mumbai’s beloved double-decker buses have taken their final bow on the city’s streets.

A Sentimental Farewell

“Chala sagle jana juna style wala ticket ghya. Aaj ha bus cha shevatcha diwas aahe. Apla pravas smarniy kara (everyone take the old-style ticket. Today is this bus’s last day. Make your travel memorable),” said Gopal Sukte, the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) bus conductor, as he issued vintage bus tickets to passengers on the upper deck of the iconic red double-decker bus.

Santosh Sawant, Sukte’s colleague responsible for issuing tickets on the lower deck, sat idle as commuters and enthusiasts flocked to the upper deck for one last glimpse of Mumbai’s skyline and to cherish their journey.

The End of the Road

After 86 years of faithfully navigating various routes across Mumbai, these non-air-conditioned double-decker buses bid adieu to their daily commuters and tourists. The BEST authorities made the decision to phase out these buses as part of ‘modernization’ and cost-cutting measures. The last service of these non-AC double-decker buses left Marol Depot on a memorable Friday morning.

A Symbol of the City

Introduced in 1937, the red double-decker buses became synonymous with Mumbai, etching themselves into the collective memory of its residents and tourists. They also found their way into Indian and Hollywood movies, becoming an integral part of the vibrant metropolis.

A Modern Transition

The BEST has begun replacing these iconic buses with leased battery-run red and black double-decker buses. Approximately 25 such buses have been introduced so far.

Lasting Memories

As the bus reached Seepz depot for a brief five-minute halt around 2 p.m., passengers thronged the premises to take photos with the bus. Some boarded the red metal moving machine, hoping to secure a front seat on the upper deck.

Passengers shared their fond memories of these buses. Gajanan Khambadi (71), who had been traveling on these double-decker buses for six decades, said, “People have fond memories of this bus. They boarded it whether they were happy or sad. It had space for everyone. I love sitting on the upper deck, feeling the breeze and enjoying the view. The government should reconsider its decision to phase out the Symbol of Mumbai.”

A Decline in Numbers

In the early 1990s, the BEST had a fleet of around 900 double-decker buses, but changing times, high operating costs, and layovers across the city led to a gradual decline after the mid-90s.

A Bittersweet Farewell

Enthusiasts like Arindam Mahapatra rushed to partake in this historic journey. “I have been traveling on these buses since 2006. They hold a special place in my heart, and I never thought of this day. As soon as I got to know about the last trip, I rushed here to make more memories,” he shared.

The Last Stop

As the bus reached Andheri Bus Depot, Mr. Sukte announced, “Chala sagle jana khali ya. Last stop aahe Andheri depot. (Everyone alight the bus. Andheri depot is the last stop).”

A Transition to Air-Conditioned Buses

Officials of the BEST assured that Mumbai’s ‘prestigious double-decker buses’ would not be completely phased out. Instead, they plan to provide 900 air-conditioned double-decker bus services to the people of Mumbai by the end of July 2024.

“The service of 900 air-conditioned double-decker buses will be operated from various 12 bus depots in Mumbai. The BEST has also modernized the bus operation by always taking into consideration the preferences of passengers in Mumbai,” the BEST officials stated.

While the iconic non-air-conditioned double-decker buses bid farewell, the promise of modern, air-conditioned alternatives ensures that the spirit of Mumbai’s beloved buses lives on.

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The Hindu

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