A whirlwind trip to Chennai.... Part-2

After a humid day in typical Chennai weather, I got into a chilled box - called the Volvo. That was my first tryst with a volvo operated by MTC, Chennai. MTC had applied heavy film on to the windows, and that ensured that very little exterior light entered the bus. The bus was heading to Thiruvanmiyur from Chennai Central. The bus was chilling cold, but the temperature was too little for the heat that Chennai was reeling under.

A Volvo operated by MTC

The fare was Rs. 23, for a 45 minute ride to Adayar Depot. The bus started off from Chennai Central. MTC buses are fitted with a device that gives off an alarm as soon as the bus nears 60kmph in speed. The pick-up of the Volvo, and the empty roads, meant that the alarm was entertaining passengers almost through the journey. The rear suspension made lots of noise as the bus went over any rough patch of road - a phenomenon exhibited by old Volvos in Bangalore. The bus that I was riding on - TN-01-N-4852 of Central depot - was supposedly of the initial lot.

The crew in MTC Volvos have a cream coloured uniform. The driver also had a 'cap' - a design very similar to crew on Ships. The driver was fast. The patronage on the particular trip (1900 hrs from Central Station) was poor. The conductor kept announcing stops - that was important since visibility outside the bus was relatively poor. He announced by destination, and I was at the door by then. The driver stopped for me, and I was the only passenger to alight. I had a long walk from the bus stop to my place.

Some confusing moments later, I and my cousin were walking briskly towards the bus stop. He was to board a bus that departs from CMBT at 2200, while my bus was at 2310. We took a bus from Adayar depot to Thiruvanmiyur. From here, we took a bus that goes to CMBT. We were on a "Golden Chariot" bus. The bus fares in Tamil Nadu are among the lowest in the entire nation. In order to keep the services floating, the authorities found innovative ways of charging more without any apparent fare hike. New classes of services were introduced, and each of these were paying higher rates. While the minimum fare of normal services is Rs. 2, these so-called premium services charge anywhere between Rs. 4 to 5. (Corrections on this figures solicited).

These so-called premium services employ semi-low floor buses, with an air-suspension and awkwardly designed ABS Plastic seats. The number of stops are apparently the same, while the buses are relatively fast. Meanwhile, our chariot was now rushing towards Koyambedu. All seats in the bus were taken, and we had some standees as well. Me and my cousin were busy discussion everything under the sun, that we suddenly noticed the bus entering CMBT. We reached CMBT at 2130 - about 35 minutes after the bus started from Thiruvanmiyur. We both parted ways after we alighted from the bus.

The good looking facade of Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus, Koyambedu

I had a walk around the bus station, clicking some pictures of the bus station. The entrance to the bus station is well-lit, and provides a very professional touch to the entire set-up. I entered the bus station, and began my pursuit for a restaurant. I couldn't find any restaurant and was totally disgusted with the scene. I had a very refreshing cold drink - flavoured milk - from an Amul store, and began another search for a restaurant. Later, I settled for a small kiosk on one of the platforms. The kiosk was no where near being called good - or even average. I had some snack from there, with a half-hearted mind. Later, I headed to the Ice-cream stall for a nice ice-cream.

I then stocked up water and a cold drink and then headed in search of the platform from where my bus would depart. I was initially told that my buses would depart from Platform 2. I was shocked to see my bus standing on Bay 26 of Platform 1 instead!!! Bay 24 to 30 were occupied by KSRTC AC services (mostly Volvos) and all of them were to depart one after the other. A few photos later, I noticed that there was a change in the order in which the buses would depart. A bus that was marked to depart at 2310 was rescheduled to 2345, and the one scheduled for 2345 was rescheduled to 2310.

I just noticed that the bus that was now allotted to work my return schedule - 2310 departure from CMBT - was the same one that brought me to Chennai. The bus was standing still on Bay 26 of Platform 1. Bay 25 was hosting another KSRTC Volvo, that was to depart at 2230. (The bus eventually departed at 2255). My bus was opened at 2250, and boarding began immediately. The conductor checked my ticket and I boarded the bus. I left my baggage there and went around to get fresh. The 2300 Volvo too was open for boarding. One fact that I noticed that, almost all the KSRTC AC Buses that departed after I reached there - about 4 of them - were packed to capacity, while TNSETC was announcing out its vacancy.

My bus - KA01-F-8259 - preparing to depart back to Bangalore...

The driver switched on the AC, and I decided to board the bus. I got in at around 2305. Most seats were taken by now, and very little passengers were remaining to board. The conductor had left one bottle of water (500ml, of a brand Cool) and a blanket on every seat. The driver prepared himself for the departure. The conductor made a final call, and every body was finally inside the bus. She - the conductor - came around for a head count and shouted "right" from inside. I heard the gear lever being pushed into Reverse, and the bus slowly moved backwards. We moved out of CMBT at 2320 - delayed by 10 minutes.

The bus was same as the one that brought me to Chennai - KA01-F-8259. Coincidentally, the driver too was the same guy who brought the bus the previous day. The bus soon crawled out of Koyambedu and entered the highway. The AC was already chilling the bus to a good extent, and I dozed off even before the bus covered 10 kms on the highway. I remember awaking slightly at night, but don't remember taking a break anywhere. The bus stopped at some place some time around 0300 - but the break was not longer than 3-4 minutes. I slept off again, only to wake as the conductor announced the arrival of Electronic City.

We reached Bommanahalli at 0437 - just 5 hours and 17 minutes after we started from Chennai. I got a rickshaw, and headed home. I hit the bed straightaway, and finished the rest of my sleep... ending a marvellous marathon run on KSRTC Volvos. Hold on... another similar marathon is coming up next week too.... stay tuned. Some more tit-bits from the Chennai trip are yet to come!


Anand K said…
The erstwhile Thiruvalluvar Transport Corporation (TTC) had operated two classes of services, semi deluxe with 2X2 seat arrangement with no push back facility and the Super Deluxe with 2X2 seat arrangement with push back and air suspension. They had only around 20% of their services under Super Deluxe category. Later they introduced Express class service with 3X2 seat arrangement mostly on shorter routes like Chennai-Trichy, Trivandrum-Madurai, Trivandrum-Kanyakumari, Chennai – Tirupati, Chennai – Pondicherry, etc. They soon withdrew the Express service due to passenger complaints about the seating arrangement. In the early 90s they increased the Super Deluxe services but with no air suspension facility and they had almost 50% of their services in Super Deluxe category. With the start of JJTC corporation for Interstate routes, all the interstate buses were changed to Super Deluxe category with air suspension facility and their fares were same as the fares of super deluxe services of TTC. The Trivandrum depot of TTC was handed over to JJTC and the Trivandrum depot had new buses. All of these buses were of Super Deluxe class and they also started AC services to Chennai with double the fare as Super Deluxe. For some reason only known to the people who issued the orders, the seating arrangement on some of these buses were changed to 3X2 arrangement. And as you know JJTC was renamed as RGTC and then merged with SETC. Over a period the air suspension facility in the SETC super deluxe buses were removed. The fare for Trivandrum to Chennai was Rs.305 on a super deluxe service. The buses in Trivandrum depot were not replaced with new buses over the period and they had the worst buses. They used to take around 22 hours for the trip to Chennai from Trivandrum. In 2004 SETC introduced Air Bus on long routes especially on the Chennai route. Most of the depots had got one pair of buses for operating Chennai service from their depots. Trivandrum also got one pair and they used this one to run the 2.30 pm schedule to Chennai and back. The fare on this was Rs.355. With the introduction of Ultra Deluxe, the fare went up to Rs.457 for Trivandrum to Chennai. There is no difference in the comfort provided by the Air Bus operated by SETC for Rs. 355 and Ultra Deluxe for Rs.457. No one knows how they increased the fares for the same class service provided by the same corporation with no government announcement on the fare revision. The same with MTC in Chennai. Atleast in the case of Deluxe buses run MTC we can see a reason behind increasing the fares due to the addition of air suspension. They started collecting increased fares on the so called white board service by adding one letter to the route number. That is on many white board services they added the letter “M” before the route number and they started calling as M services. The fares on these buses were 50ps higher than the normal white board services and some stages the fare difference is Re 1. There is no changes in the number of stops or type of buses they use for this service.
Anonymous said…