I was excited and overjoyed when I saw them on roads in Kochi - afterall, the commercial hub of Kerala was getting its due. Similar buses were introduced in Trivandrum (The capital city of Kerala) approximately a month before Kochi got them. However, Kochi's buses return more money to the corporation than the eight orange-monsters in Trivandrum.
I had to leave my car for servicing today, and thought this was the best opportunity to get into one of Kochi's own Volvos. I got out of the workshop at around 1055, and began my wait under the hot sun, waiting for a bus to roll in. In the meantime, one volvo (JNK6) rushed off to Aroor. [Currently, Volvos are operated on two routes: Aroor-Angamaly and Fort Kochi-Airport]. A Volvo turned up at 1120 at my bus stop - on the route I wanted. The bus was KL15-8030, JNK5. The bus had some 6-7 vacant seats - the rest were all taken. I took one at the rear end of the bus.
The conductor - smartly dressed in light blue-dark blue uniform - came around to dispense tickets. I took one for "Paravur Kavala" - a place near Aluva, from where I can get a bus to head home. The ticket cost me Rs. 40 - the chargeable distance being 25 kms. The driver maintained speeds in the range of 60 kmph - speeding occasionally to overtake a slow moving vehicle ahead. He stuck to the left lane for most of the time, stopping at all stops enroute - plus everywhere a passenger waved his hand. The bus never had more than 5 vacant seats through the journey.
Inside JNK5 - the bus that I traveled on. This image was taken after Aluva - a major stop where most passengers alighted.
Passengers seemed to be waiting for this bus at most stops. Given the hour of my journey, I can fairly estimate that the service is a hit among passengers. AC buses were the need of the hour for the city. However, the only grouse at the moment is that these buses run through the outskirts of the city - perhaps, more buses - especially ones going inside the city - would be appreciated. The bus was well kept - it appeared clean. A common complaint among passengers is that these buses "crawl" and "charge more" - whereas normal buses "charge less" and "go fast". This point is partially true - the bus took close to an hour to cover the 25 kilometre journey from Nettoor to Paravur Kavala.
Hope to have more journeys on these buses soon....