The AC AirBus yet again...

Exactly a month back - on April 14, 2009, I was on a KSRTC AC Airbus, traveling from Thrissur to Bangalore. I was on a Vacation from office, from April 10, 2009 to April 14, 2009. I traveled from Bangalore to Kasaragode to Kannur to Thrissur to Kodungallur, back to Thrissur and thence to Bangalore. The first two parts of the journey (Bangalore-Kasaragod and Kasaragod-Kannur) were by Car, second (Kannur-Thrissur) by Train, then the rest by Road. The concluding part of the journey (Thrissur-Bangalore) was by the ever familar Kerala SRTC AC Air Bus.

Coincidentally, I got the same bus as my last journey - my last journey was on March 01, 2009. The bus was RR210 (KL15-6408). I had heavy luggage with me to carry back to Bangalore. A trolley bag and a carton - both very heavy. The first part of the journey - from Kodungallur to Thrissur - was by a Private bus. I was tracking the journey on the bus using a GPS receiver, and found that the top speed we achieved was about 72kmph (on a bus that has a speed governor 'claimed to be' set at 60kmph). Wonder why cops fail to book these guys who flout rules so obviously.

The bus guy announced, as the bus neared Thrissur, that he wouldn't go to the city (the areas around the 'MO Road' constitute parts of Thrissur 'City'), and would take a turn straight to the bus station. That means that he would stop a bit far from the KSRTC bus station. Had no option but to get down from the bus. While pulling my baggage from below my seat, a rope that I had tied across the carton broke off! I had to balance the carton in a very odd manner, and was forced to hire a rickshaw to travel hardly 500 metres. The rickshaw guy was decent enough not to exploit by situation, and he charged strictly by meter (some people do make the autodriver community great).

Tugging the load into the bus station was no fun. Having copious amounts of baggage also meant that I had to stand at one place 'guarding' it. I reached the 'platform' area of the bus station pretty quickly. The bus station was crowded as if everybody was trying to get away from the town. Thanks to the vacation, and the festival that just concluded (Malayalees across the globe celebrated Vishu on the 14th of April - a festival often regarded as the "New Year" for Keralites), the bus station had a very humungous crowd.


A Superfast bus heads to Chengannur, from Thrissur... look at passengers waiting to pounce on the next bus...

Every bus that entered the bus station was leaving absolutely crowded, and a fair amount of extra buses too were run. My bus was seen parked at the depot, and the driver was seen 'making' his seat. The stream of arrivals and departures kept on, with about half-a-dozen buses departing Trivandrum in less than 20 minutes, and a similar number heading to Bangalore in approximately the same period. There was an alternating stream of Kerala and Karnataka buses, and all this commotion meant that my bus couldn't park on to a platform till the clock ticked past 1945. The departure was at 2000.

The boarding was very chaotic. The conductor insisted on checking tickets before letting anybody get into the bus, and he stood on the steps that lead into the bus. The entrance into the bus is too congested, and the conductor standing on the steps made the entire boarding process very slow. To add to woes, the reservation chart appeared to have been printed very light and the conductor had a tough time verifying each ticket.

My baggage was too big to fit in the passenger section, and I had to stow it into the undercarriage. The "luggage" portion of a Tata Globus vehicle (which was used by the corporation to work my schedule) has its opening at the rear end. The compartment was closed and I had to wait for the driver to open it. The driver had gone to fill up some drinking water in atleast half-a-dozen bottles. (Perhaps, he carries sufficient water for the return journey as well!). The driver came and opened the luggage compartment, after about 5 minutes of waiting. He enquired as to what was I carrying (on seeing the carton) and was satisfied with my answer.

Now it was my turn to board the bus. The entry continued to be chaotic even after 10 minutes since the start of boarding. I got into the bus at about 1955. The bus had almost full loads. We had one vacant seat, which was to be filled at Palakkad. The conductor managed to sell a couple of unreserved tickets as well. The delay in boarding meant that our departure too was to be delayed. The conductor ran around to confirm that everybody was on board before signalling a start.

The bus backed from the platform at 2007 - seven minutes past departure time. As we were about to pull out, a traffic controller came around and asked the conductor to accommodate one more passenger - a female in her mid-20s. The bus was already full and the conductor expressed helplessness. Finally, she was accommodated in the driver's cab (pretty unusual in government buses). We finally moved out of the bus station at around 2015. The initial run was too slow. The conductor once again checked if all passengers were in, and also checked if the AC was working. He announced that passengers could call up the conductor to enquire if seats were vacant on weekdays (if they could not reserve in advance, or are running short of time to reach the bus station) and announced his telephone number (which was also painted inside the bus).

We were cruising past the city bus now. I was yet to have my dinner (I had packed it from home). I went about having food, while some amazing songs were played over the AV system in the bus. Buses from Thrissur depot do not have TVs (since they operate mostly on pure overnight trips) and the only source of entertainment is music. I admire the kind of songs that are played in KSRTC buses (usually evergreen melodies from movies). By the time I finished my dinner, we had hit the highway.

The driver was slighly lethargic, and his overtakes were over cautious. We stopped at Palakkad bye-pass to pick up a passenger (At 2131). I had a very short nap as the bus continued its 'dream run'. I woke up as we were about to enter Coimbatore bye-pass. I switched on the GPS receiver again, and tracked the speed. We reached a top speed of about 97kmph in this section. I fell asleep soon after the bus exited from the bye-pass road. I woke up just as the bus stopped for a short break - the place was as usual at Hotel Plaza, Perumanallur. We stopped at 2325 and left at 2347. I took a couple of photos while we stopped for the break.


My bus, while we stopped for the break

Instead of the usual shortcut, the driver drove through the normal highway. Works seem to be complete at patches along the highway (NH47), and we even crossed a toll booth (which is yet to be functional). I fell asleep once again. This was a pretty long nap, and it went on till we reached somewhere around Krishnagiri. We stopped for yet another break, this time at a place called Karimangalam - at 0329. Normally, these guys take only a single break, and I was really surprised on the need for a second break. The place appeared to be a regular state corporation stop, since buses of both KSRTCs and TNSTC/TNSETC were parked. No private buses seen anywhere. 

We left Karimangalam at 0341. The driver was already slow, and we were pretty late by now (compared to my last trip). The bus slowly entered the highway, when another KSRTC AC bus showed up from behind. I was expecting that to be the bus from Kottayam - but, that was not the case! The bus kept trailing by bus for quite some time, and made a marvellous overtake a while later. The bus was KL15-6409 (RR611) - the bus that started from Thrissur at 2100!!! A bus that departed a whole hour later, overtook us at Krishnagiri itself!!! Things were not falling in place for me this time :(

Our driver continued a lethargic approach, and he refused to overtake vehicles through the left. Truck drivers, on the other hand, were adament not to pull on to the left. We had to trail fully-loaded trucks for long durations on gradients. Finally, the driver woke up to reality a while after we crossed Hosur. He ripped after we crossed Hosur, and we entered Karnataka in style. The run was pretty superb after we entered Karnataka. I called up my home a while after we crossed Attibelle. My brother was to pick me up from Madivala (thanks to the luggage, taking a rick would cost me a fortune!). 

Finally, we reached Madivala at 0515. We took 9 hours and 15 minutes to cover the, approximately, 450 km distance from Thrissur to Madivala (Bangalore). The time taken this time was longer than my previous journey (about 45 minutes longer). However, the running is appreciable given the fact that the bus is powered by a 160hp engine, which has to power the Airconditioner as well. The ride is "just" comfortable. The seat width is pretty low, and the leg space is average. The ride quality is not great. For the price, it surely is a good 'package'.

Comments

LOGIC said…
Hey, quite a detailed post like your other posts. And it *is* possible for the speed to go beyond 60 in sloppy terrains. SETC which doesnt go beyond 65, goes 75-80 in Hosur-Vellore downhill. Couple that with fact that not all GPS will be accurate as signal strength vary.

Being a travel freak, i thought u might be interested in http://openstreetmap.org .So if you can share your traces it would help!
Binai.K.Sankar said…
All my trackings were on plain terrain or on upgradients. It would just take common sense to understand that a vehicle can speed when on slopes.

Please note that the GPS readings quoted in the post are NOT DESCRIBED as ACCURATE. The signal strength varied from 6 to 12 satellites through my trackings.

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