My first on KPN

KPN - K.P.Natarajan - Travels is an infamous travel operator based in Salem, Tamil Nadu, India. The operator is credited with perhaps the highest reach to places in TN from Bangalore - but has earned a misreputation of being an unreliable operator in the past few years. KPN is a very old operator, existing since the mid 1900s. The operator started expanding sometime in the mid 1990s, and is now a formidable operator on many routes. They also have to their credit a good transparent online ticket booking system. They are also the biggest Multi-Axle Volvo operator between Bangalore and Tamil Nadu.

I had been planning a trip on KPN since a very long time - It had even reached the point of booking a ticket. But that ticket was cancelled later due to some other issues - this time, I was determined to make it. Accordingly, I booked a ticket on KPN's Multi-Axle Volvo departing from Coimbatore on October 16, 2011 at 1300, to Bangalore. I reached Coimbatore by a KSRTC bus from my place, and did a bit of bus spotting at Coimbatore. After a sumptuous meal at Sri Annapoorna, I headed to the Omni Bus Stand, from where I was to board the KPN bus. The KPN office had basic facilities for passengers waiting for the bus.
The bus - KA-25-D-1 - came in sharp at 1255. Only two of us got in here and the bus left at 1257 itself. The bus headed straight to their Dr. Nanjappa Road office (near the Central Bus Station). We started off from here at 1330. The next stop was less than a kilometre away, at "Sow-Maa" complex. We returned to the Omni bus station at 1342. The cleaner got here in - we had two drivers, and two cleaners now. A guy from the KPN office got in and made a final head count before letting the bus leave. We started off at 1350. The bus ran straight through Ganapathy, on to Sathy road. We took this route upto Annur, from where the bus took the State highway to Avinashi. We had a pickup at Avinashi.

The bus was well kept - it was a two year old bus, with over 5 lakh kilometres on the Odometer. The bus did make squeaks when going through rough patches, and the transmission noise was loud when the engine was being lugged. The seats were in good shape - the cloth covers on the head rest were clean. Curtains were in good shape. The interior lighting was redone - the camouflaged lamps were replaced with open lamps - the ones we see in Volvo City buses.

In the meantime, the bus continued its good run towards Bangalore. We maintained speeds in the range of 100~110kmph (on my GPS) on the four laned road. We went into Chitode town to pick up a few passengers, leaving from there at 1542. We went inside Bhavani as well to pick up passengers - leaving from there at 1552. From Bhavani, the bus took the route through Mettur Dam, to reach Dharmapuri. The Bhavani-Mettur-Thoppur section is two laned, with potholes in many sections. However, the driver maintained very good pace through the run. We stopped at Mettur for the last pick up - the bus took a "leak" break as well here. The break was about 8 minute long, departing at 1645. The pickup at Hosur was the last - the bus had 100% occupancy now. KPN Multi-Axle buses are configured with 44 semi-sleeper seats. The last row seats are replaced with a berth for the spare driver to sleep.

The driver let the beast rip after Mettur. Their experience of driving on the route daily showed up - they made the correct maneuvers, avoided big potholes, all while maintaining decent pace. The bus finally pulled into A2B Restaurant near Dharmapuri Toll. The break was from 1748 to 1813 - every passenger made use of the break to stretch their legs, and also for some pet pooja. The drivers stretched after the break - the ghats were messy like always. One slow moving truck decides to over take the one ahead of him - in the process jamming the entire carriageway. Cars resort to off-roading, while long vehicles like the Multi-Axle bus are forced to crawl behind. I was finally dropped at Silk Board, at 2030 - 6 hours and 40 minutes after the bus started from Coimbatore. The running time is decent considering the traffic in the section.

Side notes: The cleaner did not bother pulling down the rear LCD panel - so passengers in the rear seats were forced to strain their necks to see the movie on the front LCD. They played one horror movie - I feel such movies should be avoided in buses, since the audience would not always love such movies. The horror movie had to be stopped at between after the disc stopped automatically. Later, they played a couple of classic Kamal Hassan flicks. The service was "no-nonsense" - the crew were not ill-behaved. The berth at the rear of the bus let the spare driver stretch well - which keeps them fresh for their duty. They adhered to timings as claimed by their website - and the bus also seemed to have regular passengers.

KPN has a very transparent booking system - they do not jack up fares during peak seasons as well. They have the biggest reach with Multi-Axle buses in TN. They do waste time at various points - for loading luggage, or waiting for the odd passenger to turn up. The bus was fast enough - and I'd surely give KPN the benefit of doubt. I'd surely dare try them again.


dineshpkm said…
their staff behaviour is somewhat rud e in some routes.
harikishan said…
I travel a lot in the Chennai-Coimbatore and Pondy-Coimbatore Sector. Have used KPN a lot of times. Not all drivers and cleaners are rude. There are good and cooperative ones too. Have had good and pleasant rides. On the other hand, have had worst experiences too - Wrt punctuality and staff behaviour. Comparitively, they are far better now compared to the KPN in early 2000's.. It sucked to the core.. Now better..