Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Vayu Vajra: Not a smooth take off???

Vayu Vajra are Volvo B7RLE (8400 Series) Buses operated to Bangalore International Airport from the city by BMTC. This is perhaps the first venture by a transport corporation to run dedicated buses to the airport from the City. Bangalore International Airport is located at Devanahalli, about 32kms from the City center. 

The earlier airport, known popularly as "HAL Airport", was located in the heart of the city. Shifting of the airport proved very inconvenient to passengers, and air passengers steadily shifted to road and rail transport for shorter distances. In order to make connectivity to the airport easier, BMTC introduced buses to the airport. These buses were called "Vayu Vajra". Specially modified Volvo City buses were used for the purpose. 


Vayu Vajra - these buses have an image of a plane stuck on it.

These routes are numbered BIAS1 to BIAS12. Initially, AC and Non-AC services were operated. However, non-AC services were withdrawn last month due to poor patronage. The number of routes were also reduced. Currently, 44 Volvo buses are operated on 9 routes. 

Vayu Vajra - these buses have racks for stacking luggage in it. The front portion of seats are replaced with stainless steel racks. A very good move given the fact that passengers might have lots of luggage

The buses are operated 24 hours of the day. The fare charged is in slabs of Rs. 150, Rs.200 and Rs. 250. Reservation facility was initially provided. This seems to have been withdrawn now. The patronage for these buses left a lot to be desired, and seeing these Rs.85 lakh fuel-guzzlers running empty was not a good sight. These buses make sense if you travel alone, but not when you are in a group. 

Recently, the corporation opened up these buses for city rides as well. Normal Volvo fares (IT sector fares) are applied to these buses for travel anywhere inside the city (maximum being Hebbal Interchage). This is a good move, but is not publicised. I recently had a couple of rides in these buses. In the first occasion, the bus had only three passengers including me, while in the second there were about 15-20 passengers. 

Some buses operated on these routes do not have luggage racks. BMTC records claim that these services are popular. The most popular being BIAS9 - operating between Kempegowda Bus Station and the Airport. Some of these buses take a rather round about route. The following are the current airport services: (Approximate frequency given in parenthesis)

BIAS 3: HAL Main Gate to BIA via Jeevan Bima Nagar, Domlur, Trinity Circle, Indian Express, Vasanthanagar and Mehkri Circle (30 minutes) 

BIAS 5: J.P. Nagar 6th Phase to BIA via Jayanagar IV Block, Shantinagar Bus Station, Bangalore Club, High Grounds and Mehkri Circle. (40 minutes)

BIAS 6: Kadugodi Bus Station to BIA via Hope Farm, Whitefield Post Office, Siddapura and Marathahalli Bridge, Leela Palace, Domlur, Taj Residency, Coles Park, J.C. Nagar, Mehkri Circle. (60 minutes) 

BIAS 7: HSR Layout to BIA via Koramangala, Forum, Shantinagar Bus Station, Bangalore Club, High Grounds and Mehkri Circle. (30 minutes)

BIAS 7A: HSR Layout to BIA via Koramangala, Sony World, Inner Ring Road, Domlur, Trinity Circle, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Raj Bhavan Road and Mehkri Circle. (30 minutes)

BIAS 8: Electronics City to BIA via Central Silk Board, Agara, Marathahalli, Tin Factory, Kalyana Nagar and Hebbal Junction. (45 minutes)

BIAS 9: Kempe Gowda Bus Station to BIA via Shivananda, Hotel Lalith Ashok, Rajamahal Guttahalli and Mehkri Circle. (20 minutes)

BIAS 11: Chikkalasandra to BIA via Kathriguppe, Hanumanthanagar, Chamarajpet, Vijayanagar, Navarang, Malleswaram and Bhashyam Circle. (60 minutes)

BIAS 12: BTM Layout to BIA via J.P. Nagar 3rd Phase, Jayanagar Bus Station, Minerva, Shantinagar Bus Station, Corporation, Cauvery Bhavan, Maharani College, Guttahalli and Mehkri Circle. (45 minutes.)

(Source of details - a report published by The Hindu

Interestingly, BIAS4 (Old Airport to BIA) seems to have been dropped by BMTC. I am not sure of this since I did see a bus on BIAS4 last Sunday.

The main advantage of using a BIAS bus for intra-city travel is that they are faster than other Volvo services. These buses tend to skip most bus station enroute and hence successfully avoid getting stuck in traffic snarls. 

The concept surely deserves appreciation. However, the reason for its failure (to succeed in the way it was thought) is truly painful. Perhaps, these buses now have poor patronage due to the general slowdown. More information on these services (mostly out-dated, though) can be found on the BMTC website.