Saturday, February 28, 2009

Finally at home... On the bus from Bangalore to Thrissur

Finally reached home this morning at 0950. The bus slowed down quite badly since morning. We had a short break at Sulthan Bathery for light snacks. So here goes the trip report:

I reached the bus station (Kempegowda Bus Station, Bangalore - popularly called as "Majestic") at around 2035. The bus station was crowded heavily. My bus was to depart from Platform 9/10. I reached the assigned platform, and three KSRTC AC Buses were lined up there! And of the three, two were heading to Ernakulam, and one was to Kozhikode. I quickly checked up with a conductor and found out that my bus was indeed there.

The buses waiting around were: RR214 (KL15-6412, of Thrissur), RR220 (KL15-6622, of Kozhikode), RR204 (KL15-6397, of Ernakulam). Another bus of Thrissur Depot (RR213, KL15-6411) was waiting at Platform 14 (working the 2200 departure to Thrissur). The entire bus station was choked by buses parked in all possible fashions. A steady stream of departures kept the Andhra Pradesh section of the bus station busy.

At around 2100, the doors of my bus was opened. The bus was KL15-6412, RR214 of Thrissur Depot - working the 2130 schedule to Ernakulam. I was surprised to see a bus of Thrissur depot working the Ernakulam route. But, later it turned out that this bus was a spare and the actual bus had faced some problems the previous night. I got into the bus, and left my baggage on the baggage rack over my seat. The Air conditioner was yet to be switched on, and hence I decided to wait outside for a while. I got a bottle of an aerated drink, and then kept howering around my bus.

The crowd of unreserved passengers trying to get a seat was increasing every moment, and I thought it would be better for me to stay put at my seat. I settled at my seat - #13, a Window. The aisle was occupied by a person in his fifties. The AC was still off. The conductor came around with the reservation chart, and quickly checked all tickets. Once that was over, he started accomodating unreserved passengers.

The engine was switched on at 2125, and the AC too was turned on. The bus started crawling out, sharp at 2130. It took a while for our bus to get out of the terminus, since buses were parked at all corners in awkward fashion. The driver did not seem very comfortable maneuvering the bus. This bus (and most other fully built Luxury buses available in the market) is 12 metres long, while the normal buses used by RTCs are not over 11 metres in length. This driver surely had the 11 metre calculation in mind.

We slowly crawled out on to the main road, and joined the crowd at the traffic signal. The Cottonpet main road was crowded as usual, and it took over 20 minutes for the bus to reach the Market flyover. Once on the Mysore road, the driver started picking speed. The bus then pulled over at the Satellite Bus station. About 4 passengers got into the bus here, and we left the bus station at 2214. By now all seats in the bus were taken, and the AC was working full force. The coach was already cold, and the equipment maintained the temperature really well, through the night.

I dozed off for a while. Later, at around 2315 or so, I noticed the bus zipping through Ramanagaram. The vibration levels in the bus was really high. One could feel all the vibrations from the engine, and the body did a poor job at dampening them. The suspension was not smooth either. It was overall a bumpy ride. The brakes, however, did a really good job. Initially the air brakes kick in, and if the force applied rises, the retarder joins the show and the speed gets into control pretty quickly.

I again dozed, and woke up just as the bus was entering Mysore city. We ran through the city, slowing down at the bus station for formality. We crossed the bus station at 0030. I dozed off again. The driver kept up real good pace, and when I woke up briefly a while later, we were running through Gundlupet. The bus covered 61 kilometres in just an hour and 11 minutes - a good show for a bus of this kind. I dozed off once again.

I woke up suddenly when the driver slammed the brakes hard. The lorry just ahead of my bus had stopped suddenly. We were now at the Karnataka-Kerala border. My bus being a state government run one, we did not have to wait at any of the check posts. We overtook a Karnataka state bus just after the check post. Our driver was in no mood to slow down, as we continued flying through at 80-85kmph. All of a sudden, the bus stopped at a junction, and the driver took a sharp right turn. We were heading to Sulthan Bathery bus station.

My Bus - KL15-6412, RR214 of Thrissur Depot - at Sulthan Bathery

The conductor announced a 10 minute break and he rushed off to their office. Almost the entire bus emptied out, and the lone tea stall owner seemed too happy. We reached Sulthan Bathery at 0253, and left at 0309. During our stay there, one Bangalore-Kozhikode Super Deluxe and one Kottayam-Mysore Super Fast came in. WE had to make a brief halt a while after Sulthan Bathery bus station to allow three passengers to alight.

I dozed off again as the bus pulled out. I remember the bus halting at Kalpetta (0336) to drop a couple of passengers. I was woken up with a jerk as the bus stopped abruptly at a hair-pin bend on the famous Thamarassery Ghats (locally called as Churam). The driver could not complete the turn, and the bus was now standing perpendicular to the turn. He had to back up and the turn again. The same mistake repeated at most turns - highlighting the driver's inexperience of handling a bus of this length. He managed the skill of turning around only at the last hair-pin bend.

I went to deep sleep immediately after this turn. We made a brief halt at Thamarassery (0447) to drop a few passengers and then continued our journey. I was woken up just as the bus stopped at Kozhikode Bus station (0526). The halt here was longer than normal. The bus had to queue up for refueling, and this took a pretty long time. The bus was then made to wait at the platform for some time. The crew went for a tea. The news was that the bus would actually terminate at Thrissur, and passengers bound to Ernakulam will be transferred to a following bus. So, this bus was waiting at Kozhikode for the trailing bus to reach there, so that the waiting time for passengers at Thrissur can be minimised.

We finally left the bus station at 0555, just as the trailing bus came to the bus station. (That was the 0600 Kozhikode-Trivandrum service). The driver pulled out of the bus station with full vengeance. The bus easily maintained 85-90kmph through the way. We dropped a few passengers enroute, and also picked a few at Kottakal. Finally, the bus reached Punkunnam (a suburb of Thrissur) at 0805. But a traffic deviation meant that the bus could not proceed directly to the bus station, and we had to take a round-about way to the bus station. In short, we did a 112.76km journey (a normal two-lane road all the way, with mild ghats) in an impressive two hours and 10 minutes!

However, the long route that we had to take meant that I could get down directly at the Private Bus Station (locally called Sakthan Thamburan Bus Station) instead of having to hire an autorickshaw from the KSRTC bus station. I got down from the bus at 0835 - about 30 minutes after we entered the city! I got a bus to my home very quickly, and reached home by 0950.

My return journey to Bangalore is on Sunday (01-March-2009) by the 2000 Thrissur-Bangalore AC service. Will post a note on that trip, and my notes about the Globus service soon.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Heading to Kerala...

I am on a sudden trip to kerala. The journey was decided at the last moment, and I am taking a kerala state RTC AC bus. The bus is KL15-6412 (RR214) of TSR depot. The bus is working the 21.30 schedule to Ernakulam via Mysore. We started perfectly on time. The traffic in the city, as usual, was maddening, and took up over half an hour to reach the satellite bus station. The driver is now zipping through on the highway. We crossed Ramanagaram a while back. Okay, let me try catching a few winks ;)
More updates tomorrow, bye and good night...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Metric Musing: A Journey to the oblivion....

A chilly winter evening in early December (to be precise, on December 02, 2008) saw me loitering around at Yeshwantpur waiting for my train. An urgent and a very important reason had forced the travel upon me, and since it was decided at a very short notice, I had to book on the Garib Rath special. Although special trains are always best avoided, I thought this was the best opportunity for me to check out a Garib Rath! Tickets were quickly booked and my status was confirmed. I was dropped at the station by my brother. The entry area was totally crowded and I had a harrowing time wading through the crowd to reach the platform.

A glowing LED indicator revealed that my train would be departing from Platform 5. My bag was too heavy and I somehow lugged it on top. Just as I reached the top of the FOB, I heard the ever familiar drone from the Generator cars, and LO! my train was already at the platform! The rake was 18 coaches long, comprised of about 16 3A coaches and two Generator cars. The train - 0677 YPR-KCVL Garib Rath Special - was headed by twin Krishnarajapuram WDG3As #13267 and #13263. My coach - G15 - was the 16th from the loco. Against the seating capacity of 78, my coach had only about 10 passengers! The drone of the generator was too loud and could be even heard inside the AC coach! Although a special, my train was on time all the way, and we were at Palakkad with just a slight delay. 

I checked into a hotel room near the Head Post Office at Palakkad. It was a nice hotel and the room was quite good. The rent was nominal and the facilities were too good for that charge. I was free upto 1400 hours, and a while after I checked in, a quick flash across my mind made me check the timetable immediately. On checking the timetable, I found out that I could do a quick trip on the MG line. I understood that I could travel upto Pollachi, but then the return timings were kind of disturbing. I decided to restrict the journey upto Kollengode. I quickly completed my morning chores, and headed out in pursuit of an autorickshaw. I was surprised to see autorickshaws standing right outside my hotel! I hired a rick quickly and headed to Palghat Town Station. The station was quite small, but the queue at the ticket counter was long. 50 % of the crowd was for the MG train, and the rest for the Coimbatore bound MEMU. I got a ticket very soon, and it cost me just Rs 4!

The station had a lone tea-stall, and he was just heating up to his day. I had a quick coffee from there and decided to capture a few scenes at the station. While downing the hot coffee, I overheard the tea vendor talking to another person that the station had received orders for the closure of the MG line - and that was happening the next week (To be precise - that happened on December 10, 2008). I was disappointed that the curtains were falling on this line, but on a side note I was very excited to be the last railfan to travel on the MG section - which also happens to be my first ever ride in that puny vehicle. The station - Palakkad Town (Railway Code: PGTN) - predominantly handles MG, and it has a couple of lines dedicated for BG trains. The station has a low level platform for MG trains, which also houses the station building and a computerised reservation centre. The platform has a short shelter. The BG trains are handled on a small island platform, which is separated from the MG platform by about three railway lines. Of these, only one (the one at the platform) seemed to be ever handling trains, while the remaining ones were in bad condition and had thick vegetation covering them.

The lone tea-vendor at Palakkad Town station....

The BG platform too appeared to be in a very bad state. The shelter was too short and the surface seemed to have only basic tiling on it. It seemed that there were a couple of siding lines also. I could not check the BG section since the train was expected to arrive any time. The crowd for my train was pretty heavy and I was slightly worried about being able to board the train. The Coimbatore bound Mainline-Electrical Multiple Unit (MEMU) was getting filled by the minute as the crowd on the MG platform too was swelling by the minute. 

YDM4A #6141 approaching Palakkad Town with the Pollachi Passenger in tow...

The train made its appearance around a slight curve from Palakkad, exactly at 0712. The 6-coach train was brought in by YDM4A #6141. The loco was in standard Golden Rock livery, with a very fade logo of the shed stuck on to its hood. All the Metre-gauge of Southern Railway are 'based' at Golden Rock. Since the loco shed does not have Metre-gauge connectivity any more, the railways have set up small "sheds" at important points. The train had two GS coaches, then one SLR and then three more GS coaches. I first decided to get into a coach at the rear, but then a split-second decision and I ran towards the first coach. The coach was absolutely empty and enough seats were vacant. I decided not to sit, and took position at the door to doorplate all my way to Kollengode. 

The coach was more or less empty... notice the absence seats on one side of the train (This is due to the lesser width of the permanent way and the coach...

The train got its starter at 0715, and we started moving almost immediately. The starter was a "Multiple Aspect Colour Lamp" signal, while the signals beyond that were all Lower Quadrant Semaphores. A board right below the starter read: "Attention Drivers Entering 2 Aspect Lower Quadrant Territory". The line was all about curves and vegetation. The railway line covers quite some distance inside the town and hence the line had walls on both sides. The loco smoked generously and the pilot too was very generous about honking. We passed a couple of level crossings before we crossed over to the countryside. There were some signs of gauge conversion works. Land levelling were done in some sections, while in other sections work was yet to begin. 

Gauge Conversion works in progress - they have not gone beyond land levelling...

Our first halt was Pudunagaram. The station was on to the right side of the train, and the was located on the loop line. This was surely a crossing station. The halt was about two minutes long, and we pulled out at 0735. Our next halt was Vadakannikapuram. The station is only a halt station, and the ticketing seemed to be outsourced to an agency. The crowd joining this station was pretty high, and the halt was less than a minute. The 1350-hp loco took no time to get back to crusing speed. The train was swaying badly and the sound from the engine was really pleasing. The speed was never more than 45-50 kmph. The train pulled into Kollengode station 0749. The section has token signalling, and I was lucky enough to witness a token exchange at the station. 

The prized moment: The Token Exchange at Kollengode...

I rushed up to the loco to capture a few snaps of the loco, while the semaphore lowered its arms to permit the train move ahead. The 6 coach rake quickly pulled out of the station and disappeared into the horizon. I headed to explore the station. The station building was re-constructed not so back. The building was separated from the platform by about 50 metres. The station had two platforms - one on the loop line, and slightly elevated, while the second was on the loop line and at ground level. The station master's office was on the loop line side. The station had an old signal cabin pretty close to the platform. The station master was in charge of vending tickets also. One station assistant (perhaps a pointsman) was not very happy with me clicking pics, but did not have the courage to pull me into a mess. I went out of the station and clicked some more photos. Then I was back to the station, and purchased tickets for my return journey - another Rs. 4 ticket, and this was issued on a Blank Paper Ticket. 

Kollengode Station: The station building (Top), The station Garden (Middle) and the old signalling cabin (Bottom)...

I headed back to the platform. The garden - between the station and the platform - was well kept. The crowd on the platform was now building up. The train is a life line for people working or studying at Palakkad or its surroundings. And there seem to be a lot of season ticket holders on the line. From what I could gather, the road distance is about 34 kilometres, while the railway route is only about 15 kilometres! 

The Platform at Kollengode Station. Notice the low-level platform on the left - that is on the main line. Crowd was  just gathering at this moment...

The return train came in at 0826. The train, again a 6 coach rake, was brought in by YDM4A #6287 - again of Golden Rock. The train originated at Pollachi and had average crowd. Quite a lot of people got in at this station. I was in the third coach of the train. All seats were taken, and there were enough people standing also. I quickly grabbed a door to capture a couple of images and some videos. The return journey was eventless. I was so excited that I forgot to note timings at each station. The loco was honking all way long, and the sway of the coach was maddening. More people got in at each station, and the train really proved to be a hit among daily commuters. Many of them were unaware that the train was to go into oblivion in a few days down the line, while some others were mindlessly attacking the railways for cancelling the service. 

We finally pulled into Palakkad Town station at around 0902. More than 70% of the train emptied here and the rest were continuing to the train's terminus - Palakkad Junction. Some people joined the train too. Those people would change over to faster, bigger, BG trains at Palakkad Junction to continue their journey. The charming little train was generous enough to pose for some images as I clicked away standing on the BG side of the station. The loco pulled out of the station smoking heavily at 0905. It was getting hot and I decided to return to my cool room. While walking out, I noticed that the station complex was maintained really clean and staff were taking care to clean it at frequent intervals too. The rake of Amritha Express was also idling off on the BG side of the station. I walked out and hired a rick to get back to my hotel. 

YDM4A #6287 at Palakkad Town after bringing in the passenger from Pollachi...

I enjoyed the nice run and I loved my first ever MG ride very much. Sadly though, the section is now no more operational and the services that I enjoyed are now history. For those who wish to enjoy the section may now wait for a couple of years and then enjoy ride in a BG train. But the charm of the quaint stations and the lovely little locos will never come back. The Dindigal-Pollachi-Podanur section is still operational for those who wish to enjoy the ride. However, make that quick since their death knell is also on its way. 

The train continues its journey to the oblivion... Never to return back... Enjoy the ride before it goes away forever.....

On a side note: The return journey from Palakkad was by road. I took a bus to Coimbatore (A TNSTC Coimbatore division bus to Ukkadam, and then a PP bus from Ukkadam to Gandhipuram). From Gandhipuram, I took a KSRTC Volvo back to Bangalore. I was back at Bangalore by around 0515 AM. The bus journey was too good, and I got a seat diagonally behind the driver too.

A complete set of images from the trip can be seen here... Have a look at them, and do remember to drop in your comments. 

Thursday, February 05, 2009

And finally it goes down...

The Karnataka State Transport Department took a move - that is often described as "political currency" - to reduce bus fares. The department was swift in increasing fares when fuel prices had hit the roof in August. Taking the same stance, the department even reduced fares when fuel prices went down. New fares came into effect this morning, and most passengers were in for a real surprise!

The fares in Ordinary and Pushpak (Pushpak Plus and Janapriyavahini) buses were rolled back to the same level as it was before August. The surprise came later! The exhorbitant Suvarnas have finally been tamed down! Effective today, the fares in Suvarna Buses have been brought down to the rates of Pushpak services. And to add more sweetness to the deal, Daily Passes and Monthly Passes (Pushpak Class) are now valid on these buses!

These stickers - "Passes Not Allowed" is now history! These stickers have either been removed from these buses, or the "Not" has been painted over or scratched off. What a change!

Fare cuts have been effected in Volvo Buses as well. Volvo buses running within city limits have been slashed to deep levels - with the minimum fare coming down to Rs 5 from Rs 10. Volvo fares for other routes have also been altered - albeit slightly. 

Further details of new fares are awaited. I hope to update them here. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Trivandrum to Bangalore by bus....

I had been to Trivandrum on a personal reason last weekend. The journey to Trivandrum was by train, and I took the "royal" Kanyakumari Express - the 6526 Bangalore City-Kanyakumari Express - often fondly called as the "island" express. The train journey was just fine, and we were more or less on time everywhere. I had some work in the city till afternoon, and thus returning by train was totally ruled out. But, I had to be in office the next day i.e., Monday. The lack of any train leaving towards evening and the absolute passion to try out a Volvo took me to the Kerala SRTC reservation counter in Bangalore one fine evening. But the person manning the counter expressed his inability to issue tickets from Trivandrum to Bangalore since he did not have access to the reservation system of Trivandrum.

I had to make a dejected retreat. I had almost dropped the idea of traveling by bus, and decided to somehow take a leave on Monday. Although Karnataka SRTC too was operating on the same route with similar timings - and they had online reservation too - I, for some reason, did not feel like booking a ticket in their bus. The main attraction towards the Kerala bus was the fact that their bus was new and the service was at a nascent stage. All of a sudden, I had wave and I called out a friend in Trivandrum. Bingo! My ticket was booked! I got a window seat on the Volvo that departs on Sunday, the first of February 2009. He handed over the ticket to me when he was in Bangalore. The seat number in the ticket said '15' and this seat in usual number system is an aisle and not a window! I was slightly dejected, but decided to take it as a part of the adventure.

The D-Day finally arrived. It was the First of February 2009, and I was roaming inside the bus station on a hot, humid afternoon under the blazing sun. I checked out the depot, and saw a shining white volvo standing inside, all prepared to take me back to Bangalore. I rushed back to my hotel, had a nice cold shower, then had my lunch and finally vacated the room. I walked back to the bus station after a harrowing time avoiding auto drivers. The shiny white "mass" was now parked on Platform 10 of the bus station. This platform was specifically 'created' for Volvo services. I quickly went over, and got into the bus. The bus as KL15-7231 (RA 101 of Trivandrum Depot). The bus was delivered to KSRTC in December.
The bus
I got into the bus, and showed my ticket to the conductor. It was just then that I noticed, the bus had a very different seat numbering! All odd numbers were window seats, and all evens were aisles! I almost jumped up in joy! Mine was a window!!! The conductor signed on my ticket and I moved over to my seat. I stowed away my bag on the racks on top of my seat and moved out of the bus for some photography. In the meantime, a guy from the depot walked inside the bus keeping a bottle of water (500ml Aquafina) at each seat, and then depositing a full carton extra for the return journey. I walked around the bus and clicked a couple of pics. Later, a KSRTC guard came around and politely said that I required permissions to click their babes. I said okay! And straightaway pointed to a pic of mine that they had used unscrupulously on one of their boards. He gave a very long smile and disappeared into the crowd within seconds!

I continued my photography session for a while and then decided to retire to the AC comforts of the bus instead of the hot outside. Just as I entered the bus, I noticed some commotion inside, and the conductor appeared helpless. The issue was that KSRTC started using its "networked" reservation system from the previous day, and the new system issued tickets without considering the ones issued by the old system. This ended up in "double-booking" for about 10 seats! A passenger booked Seat 1, but was asked by the conductor to take 36 since that seat (#1) was allotted by another passenger by the old system! The passenger got angry and demanded an explanation. He was 'referred' to the booking supervisor instead. The conductor went up reallocating seats to passengers affected by such double bookings. And at the end of all, he had about 34 reserved passengers on board, and a few were to board from Attingal and Kollam. 

The driver got into the bus at about 1505 and switched on some melodious Malayalam songs on the AV system. He took his seat sharp at 1514, and re-charged the exhaust brakes. The bus was all set to depart, when the conductor realised that one passenger was yet to join in. The bus finally started moving at 1520, late by about 5 minutes. By now, the Karnataka SRTC Volvo to Bangalore (KA-01-F-8464, departing at 1600) started picking up passengers. The slightly backed up and then took a full 180 degree curve to head out of the bus station. The initial run was slow till we reached Pettah. We stopped for a while to pick up two more passengers there. The bus has a unique feature - the conductor is given a mobile phone by the corporation. You can call up the conductor to know where the bus is, availability of seats, etc. You can even change your boarding point using this facility!!! After picking up the two passengers, the bus hit the highway. The driver started picking up speed quickly. By now the audio was switched off, and the co-driver played a movie DVD. The first Movie was "Annan Thambi", starring Mammootty and Gopika. We stopped briefly at Attingal to pick up a couple of passengers.

The driver clipped continuously on the highway, and at many occasions he did scare the wits out of car drivers. However, he ensure that he did not taken even a single sharp cut or a hurried overtake. Overall a well balanced driving style. We entered Kollam town, and stopped outside the Kollam Bus station at 1650. The passenger in the aisle seat close to me joined here. We left Kollam after a 7 minute halt. The delay was since the co-driver had to go to their workshop to get some work done. The bus was once again back on the highway and the driver continued his high speed run. The bus stop for its first break at Kayamkulam, at 1740. The conductor announced a 10 minute break and passengers got down to stretch their legs. I down a cold juice at the bus station before capturing a few images of the bus' dashboard. We left Kayamkulam at 1756. Right outside the bus station was a pick-up point for Kallada Travels, and a lot of passengers were waiting for their bus there. I could see an awe in their face on seeing out bus. Our bus was clean and was well kept by the depot staff. 

The bus picked speed soon after Kayamkulam. We clipped through Haripad and Ambalapuzha. We slowed down as we reached Alappuzha. I was expecting the bus to go to the bus station, given the fact that the other roads are too narrow. However, this driver decided to skip the bus station and squeeze through narrow roads. This surely created heartburn for a traffic cop, who also fainted seeing the white 12-metre long monster trying to squeeze through. My driver was successful, and we soon entered the normal highway. Traffic was relatively high till Cherthala. From Cherthala, the driver got back to clipping and he took full advantage of the 4 laned highway. Sometime around now, the second movie was switched on. This one was "Roudram" starring Mammootty, again!
The ticket..
From the conductor, i learnt that we would not be going to Ernakulam bus station and instead would pick up passengers from the Vytilla Bye-pass stop itself! I was elated, since that means saving at least an hour of running time. We stopped at Vytilla sharp at 1946. About 4 passengers got down, and about two boarded the bus here. The halt was short and we began moving again at 1949. Road works were in progress around Aluva and Angamali and that did delay us slightly. The bus finally stopped at one "thattukada" (A small wayside motel) at Karukutty near Angamali at around 2033. About 4 buses were already there for dinner and we too joined the lot. The buses were two Kallada Sleepers, one KPN Volvo and one Kallada Volvo. The Kallada Volvo left shortly after we stopped. The other buses were around atleast till I finished by dinner. My dinner consisted of Parottas (Bread made of Refined Flour) and a vegetable curry. The KPN volvo left at 2058 and we left a minute later. My driver ensure that he overtook all the buses that overtook us during our dinner!

My bus pulled into Thrissur to pick up a couple of passengers who had blocked their seats by calling up the conductor. We reached Thrissur at 2149. Karnataka SRTC's KA-01-F-8461 was then preparing to head to Bangalore via Kozhikode. We left Thrissur at 2153. The driver hit the highway, and started his night marathon. I slept shortly after we hit the highway. I woke up suddenly when the driver took a 100 degree curve at some 90kmph. The bus withstood the curve really well and that really showed the balance of the bus design. I couldn't sleep for a while after that. I was now totally confused about the route that we were taking. The road appeared too narrow and was two laned. A while later we entered Erode town, clarifying all of my confusions. I had a nice sleep after that. I woke up some time at 0220, when the bus had pulled over for a short break somewhere after Salem.

A vendor from a nearby shop jumped into the bus and announced that people could take a 'leak' and could have some nice snacks and tea! I went out for a stroll and noticed that the place was called "Jagir Ammapalayam". This is the same place where ALL buses heading to Bangalore stop for a break! More and more buses were stopping now. There were about two Karnataka SRTC buses already there now. We pulled out from there at 0239. The AC was now stepped up and the absence of a blanket was felt badly now! I closed off the AC vent above my head and took a short nap. I woke up as the bus entered into Karnataka state. I spotted a huge number of BMTC buses parked on either side of the road, and that signalled the arrival of Attibelle. I took another short nap from here. The AC was too cold that condensation had formed on the outside of the bus. I woke up again as we reached Electronic city. Then decided not to sleep any more. We stopped at Bommanahalli to drop a guy. I was to get down here, but bad roads from there to home dissuaded me. 

We then stopped at Madivala (at 0530) and left about 10 minutes later. A huge number of passengers got down here. I made a mistake of not getting down there, since the bus took the Adugodi road from there. The driver simply sped up and rushed towards Richmond Road. I then got down at Hudson Circle (near Town Hall) at the City. I was dropped there at 0600. The conductor had announced to passengers that the bus would reach Bangalore at 0630, while the bus was already near there by 0600!!!! So the journey took exactly 14 hours and 40 minutes! Not bad for a 750-km odd run. The average speed was around 51 kmph with three halts (totally consuming about an hour) and patches of bad roads!

Some notes: The bus was well maintained. Actually, KSRTC is using three buses and keep rotating them between the Bangalore route and the Trivandrum-Ernakulam route. All the buses are based at Thiruvananthapuram. While providing bottles of water is good, the corporation should also provide Blankets to passengers. The staff were courteous and behaved decently. The most important fact that attracts passengers to this bus against the Karnataka bus is the fact that staff are malayalees and movies/songs played in the bus are also malayalam. A homely feel is given to passengers due to this! I just hope that the corporation maintains these beasts really well and keep them in lovely condition ever.

Post Script: As requested by a reader, here is a dissection of fares. The Kerala State Volvo charges Rs 815 (Fare Rs 810 and Reservation Rs 5) for an end-to-end trip. The Karnataka "Airavat" charges Rs. 831 (Fare: Rs 785, Reservation Rs 10, Insurance Rs 3, User Fee Rs 2, Infrastructure Fee Rs. 10 and Service Fee Rs 21). For Private players: Shama charges Rs 850, while Kallada charges Rs. 910. The fares for private operators will change according to season/demand. To summarise things, Kerala SRTC is the cheapest option. However, the lack of convenient reservation system is a big hinderance to its patronage. Despite all ills, the bus manages to fill up seats!

Some key points of difference is that the Private operators operate Semi-Sleeper buses, while the two government companies run normal "executive" buses. The Karnataka bus also gives Blankets, while Kerala does not.