My return ticket was booked using the round trip discount on the KSRTC (Karnataka) website. At the time of booking (on December 29, 2012) – almost a month in advance, the 2131TRCBNG Airavat Club Class Volvo service was almost sold out – only a few last row seats remained. At the same time, the 1828EKMBNG Airavat Club Class Mercedes bus (2040hrs pickup at Thrissur) had lots of seats vacant! I am not a fan of the Merc tri-axle (all thanks to the window facing air vents) – but left with no choice, I booked this bus – Seat #5 was my choice. My journey to Thrissur by KaSRTC was almost disastrous, with the bus taking more than 10 hours for the 464kms journey. I did not have many expectations about the journey, but had only one prayer that the bus should reach in time for office.
January 27, 2013:
There was a major risk of a big traffic snarl on the way to Thrissur, from my hometown (35kms away from Thrissur) – due to a temple festival. The traffic police had announced a diversion, well in advance. Since the diversion is through narrow roads, we thought it would be better if we left home well in advance. Sometime around 1815hrs, I receive and SMS indicating the bus number and the crew’s phone number. Accordingly, we started from home by around 1900hrs – for the 2040hrs bus – 35kms away. Dinner was packed from home. I had my dinner before getting off the car. I was dropped outside the KSRTC bus station at around 2015hrs. The bus station was chaotic at this point – it was all crowded – with people and buses. I roamed around without any aim for quite some time, until someone called me from behind – that was my colleague! He was taking the 2131hrs bus – he is a regular on that one. We had some official stuff to discuss – ah! Official talks even on a vacation!! There were buses to quite a lot of destinations at this point – including some to Bangalore.
|The bus: KA-01-F-9260. This is an old photo.|
As we were busy talking, I spot my bus sneaking into the bus station in the background – I was shocked! It was only 2048hrs! That was too good by KaSRTC standards! I bid adieu to my colleague and moved towards my bus. Boarding was chaotic – one there was no space, so the bus was parked awkwardly, two passengers for almost all KaSRTC Bangalore buses rushed seeing this bus! The conductor had quite a task finding out the passengers booked on this bus. I got in at around 2055hrs – my co-passenger had boarded only a minute before me. A movie was being played on the LCD screen – a fairly new Bollywood flick. The interiors looked a little tired – some lights were dead, and paint was peeling off the overhead rack edges and some other painted parts. Some passengers were missing – so the conductor kept shouting out “Twenty Forty Bengloor” time and again. He called up a few and finally managed to find all, but one passenger. Finally, the bus backed out at 2113hrs. It was quite an effort to get the bus out of the bus station – but the driver handled it efficiently. As we were moving out, the 2131hrs bus was boarding.
The guy at the wheels lugged the engine big time as we crawled through city roads. After the movie got over, the curtain separating the driver cabin and the passenger section was closed, and the LCD panels were closed. I slowly pushed back my seat and started searching for the elusive position that would let me sleep. The window facing AC vents were already making life difficult for me. The driver showed no hurry – he maintained speeds around 75kmph on the highway. Sometime past Mannuthy (just as we were nearing Pattikad), the conductor receives a call from the passenger who was missing at Thrissur! He was left behind – rather he did not report to the bus. The conductor wasn’t able to decipher what the caller said, and handed over the phone to the driver. The driver quickly asked him to head to their office at the bus station (Thrissur) and promised that he would be put in the next bus. But the guy at the other end was insisting that we stopped immediately and waited for him – the driver politely refused that, asked him to report to the office and disconnected the call.
The phone rings again – the same caller, the same demand, the same reply from the driver, call disconnected. Phone rings again, the same cycle repeats. By now, we were on Kuthiran. The road appeared patched up – surely better that its condition earlier this month. The bus swayed as we ran through the rough patches. Just as the bus finished ascending Kuthiran, the phone rings again – this time the driver agrees to stop. We stopped at Vaniampara – at 2152hrs. The passenger had reached right behind us – the conductor politely handled the issue, and quickly gets the passenger on board. We start off again at 2154hrs. Now the roads become slightly better, and the driver picks speed. I struggled hard, and managed to catch forty-winks. I was awake by the time we passed Kannadi. We passed Palakkad bypass at 2244hrs. I dozed off again. There was no block at Walayar – there were no private buses there either.
I dozed off for some more time, and woke up just as the bus entered Coimbatore bypass. The bus stopped just past the first toll gate – for a biobreak (2332hrs). We started off after a quick 3-minute break. The driver changed, and the conductor took to the wheels now. This fellow had the typical KaSRTC style driving – shift from 1 to 6 quickly, and then lug the engine at 70kmph! I could hear the cries from the engine throughout. Sometime during the run, I fell asleep hearing the cries from the engine. It was not the usual continuous sleep that I have in buses – this time the sleep was disturbed. I vaguely remember the bus stopping outside some shop – not sure if it was real, or was part of my dreams. I woke up just as the bus passed Krishnagiri toll – as usual. In all my recent trips, I woke up as the bus passed Krishnagiri toll!! Not sure if it was just coincidence.
In my last trip by Airavat Club Class too, the bus had passed Krishnagiri toll at 0400hrs – but on that day, there was hardly any truck traffic, the case wasn’t the same today. I wasn’t very confident of the bus reaching at its scheduled time – the driver had changed (I understood that from the driving style) – we were still running slowly (rather, steady at some two-digit speed). I dozed off again, and woke up only as the bus pulled out of Attibele toll – it was just past 0500hrs now! This means the driver did an amazing job between Krishnagiri and Attibele. We stopped at Hebbagodi to drop a passenger – 0516hrs. By now the conductor switched on all the lights, opened the curtains and shouted “electraaannicc city nodi”. We stopped at the Electronic city bus stop at 0519hrs – some passengers got off. One passenger got off at Hosa Road. I moved to the cabin now – to alight at Bommanahalli. I watched in awe as the bus effortlessly reached 95kmph, then had to slowdown to avoid hitting a cab changing lanes, and then picked speed again to cruise around 85kmph. I was finally dropped at Bommanahalli – at 0528hrs. The scheduled time for the bus to arrive KBS (Majestic) was 0600hrs – which it would’ve easily met.
End remarks: The bus was KA-01-F-9260 – one from the first lot of Mercedes Benz Tri-Axle buses delivered to KaSRTC. The bus was based at Bangalore Central Depot-2, and had about 2.6 lakh kms on the odo. Maintenance was above average – a lot of paint was peeling off the solid partition between the passenger cabin and the crew jump seats – the base metal was exposed. Lights were not in full working order – some were dead. There was some odd rattles here and there – acceptable given the kind of roads the bus goes through. The bus reached Thrissur with a delay of only 8 minutes, and reached Bangalore well on scheduled arrival time. It took 8hrs and 15 minutes – amazing running time. The driving was steady, and devoid of all the high speed heroics. Honking was absolutely minimal – not absent though. I loved the ride – and I surely love to try them again. The only question that hounds me is, why can’t KaSRTC do Bangalore-Thrissur in less than 9hours when it manages to do Thrissur-Bangalore in around 8 hours? The distance does not change – the traffic scene is similar.
Water Bottle: Yes (500ml bottle)
Maintenance (including cleanliness): 4.5/5
Staff Behaviour: 5/5
Will I take this service again? Both the experiences with them on the Thrissur-Bangalore route have been good, but poor in the opposite direction. I might take them for my Thrissur-Bangalore runs.