On the day-night multi to Bengaluru..

For long, I've always been wondering why there aren't any day time bus services from Southern Kerala to Bangalore. Day buses always ran from Coimbatore, Madurai, etc to Bangalore. There is a day time train from Bangalore to Ernakulam. About a month back, a friend called me and said, Kallada was running a "day time special B9R" to Kerala. I was left awestruck - a quick glance at the Kallada website clarified that it was NOT a special, but a regular service!

Wow! That was a long time dream come true for me! I love traveling over the day, and this was the perfect service for me. There comes a trip to Bangalore - like a god sent gift! For the first time, I'd also be traveling without luggage! I mulled by long term desire to travel bus-hopping, but somehow, I wasn't very ready to do it this time. Booking on the Day Volvo came as a no-brainer to me! The ticket was booked online, seat on the first row. The bus was absolutely empty when I made the reservation.

On the day of journey - August 25, 2011, I started off from home at about 7:00. Got into RAC977 of my home depot (Kodungallur), heading to Alappuzha via Aluva, Vyttila. Its a roundabout route, but the fact that I need not change buses to reach my destination was a big positive. The bus left at 0720, and dropped me at Vyttila around 0850. Had I changed buses, I'd surely have reached earlier, but it would have been a hellish ride. No worries - I still had a good 40 minutes to go for my next bus.

The pick up point of Kallada is a bit away from the bus stop - towards Thycoodam underpass - about a 200 metre walk. Just as I began my walk, a gleaming red Volvo pulls in - KA01AA7638, of Suresh Kallada Travels. I was sure this is the bus that works the day service - the incoming bus came in only at 9 AM! I was left wondering about how would they manage to have it return at 9:30AM! The bus remained at the bus stop until 9:15 - while the cleaned the bus. The bus was taken towards the underpass, and they parked it on the road side. The drivers had their food, and took a bit of rest.
The bus was brought in to the pick up point at 9:41 - late by 11 minutes even before departure! Boarding began only by 9:45. We started off at 10:00 - with a grand total of 5 passengers on board. We were welcomed by crawling traffic, all the way upto Edappally. We picked up another passenger at Edappally, and two more at Kalamassery. We picked another two at Ankamaly. The driver clipped after Ankamaly - we hit a top speed of 105kmph (on my GPS) before Mannuthy.

The cleaner was adamant not to let me have the curtains open - the one that separates the crew area from the passenger cabin. This meant that I had to pass time watching the horrible movie that they played on TV. I caught up some sleep in the meantime. We reached Mannuthy at 1128, picked up two more passengers, and continued our journey. The road ahead was inexistent, and made for a very bouncy journey. Our driver was very careful not to ground the bus anywhere, and in the process was overtaken left right and centre by private route buses. The roads upto Vadakkenchery very in horrible shape - it was better after that.

We stopped at Hotel Sre Aaryas at Chandranagar, Palakkad bypass for lunch. While we stopped for lunch, we picked up two more passengers. We stopped at 1250. I had a very quick lunch, and got back to the bus. It was now that I had a very detailed look at the bus - the bus had about 14000kms on the odo. It was installed with a Volvo Speed Limiter, with a speed limit of 100kmph. The bus had absolutely no scratches or dents anywhere on its body - in very fresh condition. The bus underwent a service at 12000kms, at Volvo Kochi. The interiors had a Red and Cream combination - although very "on the face", the contrasts were too good.
We started off from Palakkad at 1321. We had 14 passengers on board now. The driver got faster now - maintaining 80kmph all the time. We stopped briefly near KG Chavadi, when the cleaner went and got the papers checked. The traffic was a bit slow near Madukkarai, and go slower as we near Athupalam. Ukkadam was a mess. The driver had a tough time taking a 90-deg curve near Town Hall - mostly due to traffic. We finally stopped at Coimbatore Omni Bus Station at 1440. Entering the bus station was a big circus due to the haphazard parking of buses. We had to get one bus moved so that we could come out of the bus station. We were out at 1448. Only one passenger got in here - we had dropped three passengers near Gandhipuram bus stand. We picked up three more passengers from Nanjappa road, and made swift progress towards Avinashi road. We now had 15 passengers on board.

The ride ahead was uneventful. The cleaner was adamant not to play a movie - and passengers were left to the mercy of some horribly boring songs being played on the music system. My observations about the bus continued - I've always seen operators installing speakers on the hatrack - they install 8 of them. I always thought this happened because the OEM speakers were bad - but I was proven wrong. The AC Vent unit did not have speakers at all - the operator chose to have speakers on the hatrack instead! The bus has 12 rows - which means there would've been 24 speakers. But by have speakers on the hatrack, the operator has to spend only on 8 speakers, saving the cost of 16 speakers!!

The bus had a 25" Samsung Series 4 LCD monitor at the front, and a 19" drop down screen (Make: Carbon?) towards the rear. The player was of JVC make. The speakers on the hatrack were installed at Volvo itself - since the boxes had the same covering as that of the floor! In the meantime, we rushed past Avinashi, and we entered the four-lane highway at Chengampalli. I was expected the bus to enter Perundurai for refueling - but nothing happened. We stopped at a wayside tea stall in Bhavani for Tea - at 1710, and started off at 1718. I was disgusted at the kind of place they stopped for a break - there was no toilet facility anywhere in sight.

By now, the drivers realised that we were running very late. They called up their Salem office to enquire if there were any pickups - there were 2 passengers! The cleaner picked up their numbers and called both of them. One of them said he/she was not joining, while the other was coming - the cleaner asked him to wait on the bypass and not at the bus station as mentioned on the ticket - a small argument ensued. But then the passenger agreed. Oh! Forgot to say this - the drivers changed at Bhavani. The new driver was a senior person - with grey hair, wearing the legal white uniform. We were welcomed by a long traffic snarl at Salem - we picked up the passenger at 1810.

The driver was desperate to break free, and speed up his run. We picked pace rapidly after Salem, maintaining 95-100 all the time. Toppur ghats came as a huge roadblock for us - trucks blocked all the lanes, our bus struggled to maintain even 30kmph - we hardly make an overtake, to get stuck behind the next truck. The size of the bus meant that we couldn't cut across lanes very easily. Somehow, the driver managed to dodge most trucks and we approached Dharmapuri Toll Gate - but an RTO guy jumps across and asks us to wait: 1900 hrs. They find some offense, and levy a fine. We start off at 1909 hrs.
We enter the first toll gate line - we had to request a car guy to let us go since the bus was running very late (The official arrival time at Bangalore is 2030 hrs - about 130+ kms to go!). The car guy obliged, and we enter the toll lane - but the driver stops half way through. The Lane is too narrow to let the bus go by without hitting anywhere! Finally, we reach such a stage that the driver had two choices - break the rear-view mirror, or bang the rear grille! Finally, the guys at the till gate intervened, and closed the lane. They cleared the traffic behind, and we pulled fully backwards, and entered the next lane.

We finally exit the toll gate at 1930 - we lost a good 30 minutes here! We had an hour ahead to cover 130+ kms - and impossible task by any expectation. The driver resigned to fate, but kept firing on all cylinders. We had a drop off at Hosur - the passenger was dropped off at the flyover instead of going to the bus station. Another traffic block welcomed us to Bangalore. Attibele was a mess - as usual. The Toll Gate ate more time. We took off after Attibele. Traffic was very heavy on that day - all the way. We took the Elevated highway from Electronic City. I was dropped off at Silk Board junction at 2158 - one and a half hours late! The bus has to return to Bangalore at 2200hrs!!

Side notes: The nationwide Truckers strike had concluded just the day before - all the trucks that were lying idle for few days were now on the road. The roads were chocked everywhere - Ghats were a pain, Traffic signals were long. We reached Bangalore a good 88 minutes late - thanks to the awful road in Kerala, and the horrible traffic in Tamil Nadu (Truck traffic).

Service: The cleaner was clearly misbehaved - not the way he should behave with passengers. He was adamant on not playing a movie - he played one after Dharmapuri, that too after a few passengers gave him a dressing down. I wonder why should the curtains be kept closed on a day service - passengers aren't traveling in the bus to see the beauty of the curtains - are they?

The day service is a good way for many passengers - some people do not like night services and prefer traveling over the day - for them, this service is god sent! Wish Kallada hires better staff - atleast guys who know the basics of dealing with passengers. Cleaners should be told that they do not own the bus - and he is nobody to order what the passenger does.

Will I recommend this service to someone? Yes! Why not! Just because the cleaner was a bad on that day, doesn't mean the service would be bad - but approach the service with a pinch of salt! Kallada doesn't provide water bottles to passengers - but Blankets were provided though. The AC control was awful - perhaps they weren't setting proper temperatures.

Rating: 7 on 10.


vinchel said…
Good post..
Kallada has got great buses now and needs to get good staff also.
I would rate their Ernakulam-Chennai B9r service as the best as they always get the best buses and the staff is well behaved.. and assists the passengers whenever required...