Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do you have a Multi??

Warning: This post in intended to those who love/follow buses !!

About a month back, I was at a travel agency waiting for my boarding pass. Of late, I've been a great fan of private operators on the Bangalore route - especially the multi-axle buses. Multi-Axle monsters have made road journeys even faster and comfortable - the speed certainly comes with its risks, but its indulging.

Back to the story.. Just as the guy at the counter pulled out a stack of empty boarding passes, a guy walks in an asks for a ticket on a bus to Kerala. The agent pulls out a file and checks availability - he replied that ticket was available and said the rate was Rs. 560. Then comes the next question: "Multi alle?". (Isn't it a Multi). The agent pulls out another file and quotes the new ticket rate.

That question keeps ringing in my mind - Isn't it a multi??. What is so special about a Multi that every one wants one for their travel?

Multi Axles have made journeys faster - they've cut down run times by upto 2-3 hours on many routes. The bus has humongous torque, which makes the bus pick up pace faster than regular buses - even Volvos! The private segment now purchases only Multi-Axle buses - be it a Volvo or a Mercedes. The Multi Axle frenzy has reached its heights now - any route gets a Multi now!

Ghat routes which were once difficult even for ordinary buses, are now the forte of Multi Axle buses. Take the case of the Shiradi Ghats - the ardous one on the Hassan-Mangalore route - the ghat route was in the news for all wrong reasons. This route now gets a Multi-Axle bus!

Taking the case of Bangalore-Kerala route - this route is now the hotbed of Multi-axle buses. A simple back of the paper calculation revealed that there are as many as 21 Multi-Axle buses (20 Volvo and 1 Mercedes) running between Bangalore and Kerala - each way. This works out roughly to about 1028 seats! This number is independent of the regular Volvos that run to Kerala daily. The non-Volvo/Merc buses too are not included in this calculation. Of the 21 Multi-Axle buses, one is a Government run (Karnataka SRTC) bus.

A Multi-Axle Volvo. Image is only representational.

The Multi-axle buses charge a premium of Rs. 100~150 over the regular rates. Even the government run Multi-Axle bus charges a premium - all for the "Sleep Like a Baby" tag! The Chennai-Kerala route is even hotter - with operators fighting each other to reach first at their destination. The worst offender being an operator with a "three letter" name. A user had posted a video on YouTube showing a Volvo speedometer reaching its limits - at 130kmph!

These buses hit crazy speeds - controlled by amateur F1 wannabes.I used to call Kerala's private bus drivers as F1 aspirants - but the private Volvo drivers take that to a newer dimension! I am not blindly blaming all operators - quite a lot of old time operators are taking safety seriously and have ordered their drivers to be sane. But the newer operators are getting crazy - I only hope the government takes this craze seriously and clamps down these operators. Three digit speeds are unsafe on Indian Roads - especially for a bus.

Whatever safety gadgets are provided, the guy who drives doesn't handle it safely. An ABS brake, or even the retarders would not help if the bus gets into danger at three digit speeds. The number of accidents involving Multi-Axle buses is not a welcome sign - in most cases, accidents happened after the driver couldn't control the bus at some point. In a recent case, a Multi-Axle Mercedes bus overturned after it hit a median at a very high speed - the result: Three lives were lost.

Its time passengers resented to such reckless driving - better be safe by departing earlier, than departing late and then playing a balancing game praying for life till one's destination. It is passengers who encourage such driving practices - if passengers avoid such notorious operators, they are bound to fall in line. That is what is required.

Before you think shamelessly of reaching your destination early, remember that you are not the only road user. There are more road users - who may be affected by the reckless driving of these idiots (sorry for this word - but couldn't find a better one) dancing to the tunes of equally idiotic operators.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Desperation.. and Mudslinging??

Kerala's biggest, and perhaps the only, Multi-System Operator, Asianet Cable (ACV) stopped airing signals of the ESPN-Star Sports bouquet (comprising of ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket) since over a month now. ACV argues that ESPN has raised subscription charges heavily and that they stopped airing the channels to protect consumer interests. ACV has maintained steady subscription charges for a long time, despite increased operational costs.ACV offers the maximum number of channels for a Cable TV network, and they offer very good service on their Digital system.

The switching off of ESPN-Star signals comes at a wrong time for sports lovers - with plenty of sports action lined up for the next few months. It appears that ESPN-Star are desperate for business - they have started a campaign to reduce the subscriber base for ACV.

In the past few days, ESPN-Star has started airing advertisements on leading FM radio stations and placing hoardings at important places urging customers to switch to a different cable network or purchase a DTH set to continue enjoying ESPN-Star Sports. It seems ESPN-Star has not been able to reach a consensus with ACV, but are desperate to reach out their audience. Such mudslinging seems very cheap - a company like ESPN-Star shouldn't resort to such cheap pressure tactics.

AND, ACV are no saints either - trying to get cheap signals, eh??