A whirlwind trip to Chennai.... Part-1

I had to head to Chennai on a personal requirement over the weekend. I did the ticketing a while after I landed in Bangalore after the B9R journey from Thrissur. I did think about a lot of options before ticketing - including a couple of private operators - but decided to stick with the tried and tested operator - KSRTC. The icing on the cake would be the fact that I would be getting on to a KSRTC Volvo after good 6 months! My last KSRTC Volvo journey was an amazing journey from Coimbatore to Bangalore.

The KSRTC Online booking portal was behaving wierd during my attempts to book. The process never went even up payment, for long 30 minutes. Finally, on my fifth attempt, the payment gateway appeared and the booking finally went through. I got a ticket on the 1400 departure from KBS, and my favorite seat - Seat #4. This seat is diagonally behind the driver, with a commanding view on the dashboard. Now, I headed for the return reservation. I had a look on the return buses even before I booked my onward ticket, and had noticed that most buses had some 25-30 seats remaining.

I took my own sweet time to start my return booking. I got shocked when I noticed that the availability had dropped to 5 in most buses! In all cases, only the last row was remaining. I had a mad rush through all buses to find if any of them had a seat elsewhere other than the rear row - and landed up on the 2310 bus, which is via Hosur. This bus had quite a few seats. Finally selected Seat #29, and confirmed the booking. I noticed a difference of Rs. 100 in the onward and return tickets. I then realised the goof up of not making a two-way booking, which would have saved some money :(

Saturday dawned finally... I left home at around 1230. My brother dropped me at Shantinagar Bus Station. I then got into a KBS bound Volvo bus from there - at around 1315. I was slightly worried since my departure was only 45 minutes away, and Bangalore's traffic is unpredictable. The driver of my bus was least interested in driving fast, and stuck mostly to the left lane. We got held up at the Richmond Fly-over signal for a pretty long time, and by the time the bus moved from there, it was 1335. The driver continued his slow run, and we got held up at all traffic signals. Finally, the bus was near State Bank of Mysore signal by about 1345. The traffic ahead was moving too slow, and I could feel my heart beating at a frantic pace. The red coloured bus (my Volvo) finally pulled into the bus station at 1350. I just jumped out of the bus, and ran towards the long-distance section of KBS. I reached the bus station at 1353, and saw my bus standing at the platform. Quickly picked up a bottle of cold drink and ran towards the bus.

The conductor, a lady, was standing outside with the reservation chart. She quickly checked my ticket and I got into the bus. The bus was about 50% empty now. The conductor shouted out aloud, and managed to get in a couple of unreserved passengers. The clocked ticked slowly to 1400. However, there was no sign of the bus moving. Finally, got to know from the conductor that they were waiting for some reserved passengers, who were yet to reach. The wait continued till 1415, while the conductor continued selling unreserved tickets.

The conductor signalled the driver to start at 1418. Two reserved passengers were yet to join. The driver slotted the bus into the first gear, and the 260hp, 7-litre engine mounted at the rear slowly pushed the bus ahead. The bus, KA-01-F-8259, was an early Mark-III bus. This one did not have the new CRDi engine, and therefore had the old styled dashboard.

The dashboard of my bus... check here for a detailed look at it...

The conductor went out to the controller, while the driver slowly inched the bus ahead. Two passengers came running towards the bus and the driver stopped for them, and asked if they had reservation. They said yes, to which the driver gave a wicked smile. The conductor came in, and the bus finally pulled out at 1420, delayed by a whole 20 minutes. The conductor went to the late joinees, and gave a mouthful for delaying other passengers by a whole 20 minutes. They were apologetic. The bus crawled out of the bus station, and then headed towards Hudson Circle. The conductor listed out passengers who were to join at different pick up points ahead, and she found that there were passengers to board at each of the boarding point.

One off-duty staff member was traveling in the bus, and the conductor was cursing the online booking system for the proliferation of so many pick-up points. She was saying that so many pick-up ultimately end up wasting more time - a fact that I agree with her. We were now crawling towards Shantinagar, the second pick up point. The pick-up at Shantinagar was introducted when the buses operated by TNSETC was shifted to Shantinagar. We reached there at 1441. Some four reserved passengers, and about 3 unreserved passengers got in here. The conductor quickly got her timesheet signed, and we started our onward journey at 1445.

One passenger, who wasn't reserved, created a scene inside the bus on not getting a good scene, and demanded that he be allowed another seat, which according to him was empty. The conductor politely said that he could either be happy with what he got - since the other seats were reserved - or get off the bus. The passenger chose to remain silent. The bus was now crawling past Wilson Garden police station. The traffic, as usual, was slow moving. This was my first experience on that particular road on a Volvo B7R. I have zipped through that road umpteen times on a BMTC Volvo.

The turn near Lakkasandra - the point where the road from Wilson Garden, 12th cross, joins Marigowda Road - was chaotic as usual. The turn took a real long time. Once we were on Marigowda road, the driver quickly picked speed, and we were soon on the Dairy Circle flyover. We slowed down to the bus stop near KMF (Bangalore Dairy), where the bus has a pick up point. We stopped at 1458 and left at 1500 - three passengers joined the bus here. The traffic ahead was typical of Bangalore - slow moving, and indisciplined to the core. The driver never required to go ahead of the third gear anywhere till we crossed Bommanahalli. It rained slightly as we crossed Bommanahalli.

The driver maintained about 80kmph after we crossed Bommanahalli. The road around Electronic city was in a bad shape. We stopped for a pick-up right outside Electronic City Depot of BMTC. We stopped at 1530 and left at 1532. We were now 42 minutes behind the scheduled time. The run from Electronic City to the state border was painfully slow, owing to bad roads at most stretches of road. The driver let the beast free after we crossed over into Tamilnadu. By now, all the 45 seats in the bus were taken. The driver maintained a steady pace through the journey, and he never exceeded 90~95kmph anywhere along the route.

My bus at the place where we stopped for a break....

We pulled over for a break about 11 kilometres before Krishnagiri. The place basically consisted of a pretty big parking lot, one restaurant and about 5 other stall selling books, cold drinks, light snacks and hot beverages. There was one pay-to-use toilet at one end of the parking ground. The break lasted 23 minutes - from 1640 to 1703. I had some yummy Vegetable puffs from a bakery there, punctuated with some amazing rice murukku.

Once back on the highway, the driver was back to his 90kmph show. Overall, I was really impressed by his driving style. He maintained speeds between 80~95 kmph through the run, never made a rash overtake and ensured that he gave way to vehicles that were faster than him. He was frustrated at some drivers driving in a very rash manner, and we did witness some near accidents involving motorbikes.

The driver enjoying the run...

There were about 5 Toll-plazas on the way, and at each point, the driver gave an average of Rs. 150 (for a two-way journey). So, that is about Rs. 750 in road user fee for a two-way journey of the bus. We were closely tracing a railway track a while after we entered the Krishnagiri-Chennai stretch of NH46. There were quite a lot of Maharashtra registered vehicles of this part of the road. The road had slightly lighter traffic now, compared to NH7. The bus stopped near a flyover, that by-passes Vellore, for dropping a couple of passengers. About three passengers got off, and we continued the run ahead.

The bus stopped for yet another break a while after Vellore. The restaurant was serving some hot and crisp raw banana bhajjis. Passengers used this opportunity to stretch their legs a bit and also for a leak. I downed some hot bhajjis, and washed them down with a cold sip of cola. The run after the break was eventless. A bollywood movie was being played inside, and I concentrated more on the movie than on the road. There were quite some traffic junctions on the way. The bus stopped at Kancheepuram by-pass to drop some more passengers. Some more eventless time later, we crawled down from the highway, on to a road that leads to Koyambedu bus station.

The traffic was slow-moving here, with dozens of private omni buses parked haphazardly along the road, waiting for passengers. Add to this innumerable cars and autorickshaws roaming around to drop passengers. The bus crawled through the traffic and finally took a sharp right turn to enter the service road used by buses to reach the bus station. The bus finally arrived at the final destination at 2115 - early by a full 15 minutes. The actual running time turned out to be 6 hours and 12 minutes, excluding all breaks.

It was then a task for me to find a bus to my destination. The crew sitting at the time-keeper's office of MTC, at Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT - at Koyambedu) were least helpful. The lady at the counter said that the bus is gone, when I asked about details of services to Adayar. Finally, a couple of drivers helped me to the spot where my bus would arrive and they provided me with the route number the service. A bus on this route, 23M, arrived at around 2140. I managed to get a seat in the rickety old bus - based at Adayar Depot. The conductor seemed to be doing the job for the same, and gave a grumpy response when I requested him to let me know when my destination - Adayar Depot - arrives.

The bus rolled through places which I have heard of, but never been to. Usman Road, Panagal Park, T Nagar, Guindy, etc passed through. The bus reached Adayar Bus Station, and I got alert. Finally, the bus passed through certain areas, which I had been to in December 2007. I asked a couple of co-passengers, and they said that my destination was next. I went to the conductor, and asked if my destination had arrived - he made a surly yes. I got down from my bus, and called up my cousin, who came and picked me up. Here ends Part-I of my Chennai Trip Report. Stay tuned for the remaining parts to come.....

Comments

Anand K said…
There is a huge difference in the running time shown in the Karnataka SRTC site for the same class of service on the same route. For Example, for the Airavath class, the running time shown on the Chennai Bangalore route varies from 5.30 hrs to 8.30 hours. Do you know the reason behind this?

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