'End of an era': Mumbai bids farewell to iconic double-decker buses

The 86-year-old double decker buses featured open windows and panoramic views. Credit: iStock

Written by Senior Assistant News Editor Khadija Kothia

Treasured for its panoramic views and open windows overlooking the city, the last of Mumbai's 86-year double-decker buses made the final journey of its daily route on Friday. New electric double-deckers will replace the old, diesel-run models that were first introduced to the city as far back as 1937, when India was still under the governorship of the British Empire. Crowds commemorated the farewell by flocking to Marol depot in the northern part of the city on Friday to watch the last bus drive out for the final time.

Brightly coloured balloon arches were hung onto the buses by drivers and conductors to mark the day, while traditional farewell ceremonies were held next to the bus.

Bus drivers and conductors hold a traditional ceremony to mark respect for the historic buses. Credit: Kunal Tripathi/X: @mumbaiheritage

Dozens of Mumbai residents used social media to share their fondest childhood memories on the towering buses.

"It was so much awesomeness to get in the front row of the top decker right from the 1st stop and ride it all the way to Juhu depot," one user said.

"The wind from the front windows was truly fantastic and it was a 'king of the world!' feeling."

"Sitting on the first row of the upper deck, the early morning Mumbai air hitting my face, swerving aside in excitement every time a tree branch came dangerously close & swelling with pride as I saw the Oberoi’s (where my dad worked) skyline appear from a distance," said another.

The move to replace the buses made by public transport provider Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport (BEST) has been aimed at improving the efficiency of the city's transport network and to reduce air pollution.

Currently, 14 of the world's 20 cities with the worst air pollution are in India, according to the World Health Organisation.

The move adds to the Clean Air India Movement (CLAIM) which was launched in 2015 by air purifier branch Blueair as a nationwide movement aimed at encouraging Indian citizens to adopt air friendly measures.

The final remaining bus used to be part of a fleet of around 900 buses in the early 1990s, but there has been a gradual decline due to high operating costs and the model's high diesel-usage.

The new model will feature closed top-deck windows and fully air-conditioned buses but will be without the treasured open windows and panoramic views of the city that the historic bus offered.

One of the first double decker buses (left) and the new double-decker model (right) Credit: Kunal Tripathi/Twitter: @mumbaiheritage

Kunal Tripathi, who runs social media page Mumbai Heritage, says that the open windows were the best part of the old buses. He recalls sitting in the much sought after front seat on the top deck as a child to watch the bustling streets below. "The world seemed different from that view entirely," he says. "It was like we were continuously on a daily sightseeing tour." "Each time was an adventure."

While the new buses reflect the growing modernisation of the city in a more environmentally aware world, Tripathi says the phased-out diesel buses mark the "end of an era". "It was part of the city," he says. "It was like an identity for us."

A few remaining diesel buses will now be kept for open-top sightseeing tours and tourism purposes.

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