My first: Kallada's Volvo B9R Sleeper!

Every time I saw a Volvo sleeper, I wondered how the interiors would be. I normally do not check the interiors during my bus spotting trips - so never had a look at the interiors of a Volvo Sleeper. I was elated when the news of Kallada getting a B9R Sleeper reached me - and the icing was that it was running to Ernakulam. Days flew past, and one fine day I saw pics of the new Kallada Sleeper on the net. My contact helped me have a pre-launch look at the bus - I was not very impressed with the workmanship in the interiors - all from a major body builder. I did not have a chance to try the sleeper after it was launched - all my trips were planned at the last moment, and hence I never had the chance to book on this one. Choosing this service was a no-brainer for my return trip from Kerala, after my first visit home in May. The ticket was booked through a third party website, thus saving some money. I got a berth towards the back - a single lower berth.

May 13, 2013:
It was one tiring day - heat and a function at home had a deleterious effect on me. I was sleepy as my brother drove towards Thrissur to drop me. He was tired as well. I headed to the Kallada office in Thrissur to get an update about my bus. A Chennai bound bus was standing there - the people at the office were busy doing accounts of that bus. The guy said the bus would come at 2230hrs (2200hrs is the scheduled departure). I returned to the car. My brother was already half asleep then. I sat in the car spotting some KeSRTC buses that went by at that time. Sometime past 2230hrs, I returned to the office - this time, they said the bus departed late. They called up the driver and found that it was just past Chalakkudy then! OMG! I conveyed this to my brother, and told him to go home. I headed to the office and took a seat there.

One driver was sitting there then - he would be getting into my bus from Thrissur. A lot of people sitting in the office were already getting desperate - it was obvious since time was going past. A Kallada bus rolled in at 2300hrs - that was the Pathanamthitta-Bangalore bus. Right behind was my bus - came in at 2303hrs. Boarding started immediately - I got into the bus and headed straight to my berth - 5LB. There was a hump in the floor at that point - so it felt as if the berth was on the floor! It struggled as I squat on to the berth. A packed blanket was kept on the berth - the packet had a "Specially packed for you" tag in it. I searched for a place to keep my bag - and finally left it on the gangway. The engine noise was very very audible inside - I felt as if I was lying on the engine. The AC was chilling cold. There was no signs of movement - the clocked ticked past 2330hrs. I was sure that I would a working day - such a late departure will surely not take me to Bangalore in time for office, unless the driver rips through - which was not even a faint possibility since the bus was brand new.
The bus: KA-51-B-3197.
We finally got moving at 2349hrs - a good 1h49m late! I lay down on the berth hearing the symphony (or cacophony?) from the engine. The harsh grunt from the engine was to be the lullaby for me. The bus passed Mannuthy at 2355hrs and got set to conquer the pothole-ridden road to Palakkad. The driver showed no mercy to passengers as he rushed through the broken road, swaying madly. I was regretting booking a sleeper now - the driver was throwing me side-to-side, punctuated with potholes. Sometime during the run, the driver lugged the engine so badly that it almost switched off. I was tired with the busy day, and slipped asleep. I woke up sweating - my hair was wet in sweat. I threw off the blanket and found that the AC was blowing hot air! Heat was coming from the engine as well! Now that was rude shock for me. Was the AC dead? I opened to curtains, and it was hot in the gangway as well. We passed Walayar now (0140hrs). I rushed towards the cabin. Two drivers were sleeping on the gangway - so it was hurdle run to reach the cabin.

I questioned the Driver if the AC had conked off - he was merrily driving with the windows open, and did not realise that the AC was dead. He tried restarting the AC, but the compressor wouldn't start. In the meantime, the attendant went to open the exhaust hatches. We pulled into Ettimadai Checkpost at 0151hrs - the attendant got off to show the papers at the check post office. I now asked the driver to restart the engine and try again - he agreed to me, and did what I said. In the meantime, a lot of passengers used this as a leak break. We started off at 0158hrs. Now the AC compressor was running and the AC was spewing out cold air now. I returned to my berth - fell asleep very soon. Woke up sometime in between - we were on the 4-laned highway now. The blower was acting erratically - it kept switching off time and again. I slept on-and-off - it was not really continuous. The heat from the engine was a disturbing factor.

The bus pulled into the Perundurai petrol pump at 0400hrs. I got off the bus and rushed to the washroom there - I was the only passenger to get off. I guess the others were exhausted and were dead asleep. One of the two drivers sleeping on the gangway to got up now. I got back into the bus quickly - the stop was fairly long. We started off at 0419hrs. I only remember hitting the berth - slept off. Had a nice sleep now - I woke up at around 0730hrs. From the look of the place, I thought we were past Hosur now. Just then the attendant came around shouting "Hosur..". The AC was dead again - it was spewing hot air now. I gave up all hope of going to office - I was too tired anyways. I took a sleeper bus hoping to have a nice sleep, but the effect was exactly the opposite. We passed Hosur at 0746hrs. Traffic was heavy past Hosur. We passed Electronic City at 0814hrs, and took the BETL. I headed to the cabin now - the exhausts were open, and it was making a hell of a noise.

I had a word with the driver to find out the normal arrival time - he said it comes normally by 7AM, and apologetically said we were very late. I gave him a piece of my mind for the delay at Thrissur and then the AC fiasco. I felt bad for doing that, but it surely reduced my anger. We finally stop at Silk Board, at 0825hrs. I was horribly disappointed as I got off the bus - the bus took only 8h36m including the stop for fuel and the morning traffic from Hosur onwards. Disappointed and hurt, I slowly walked to the auto stand - a guy demanded Rs. 450 for a 6km ride home. I gave him a piece of my mind as well, and walked towards the bus stop - but got another Auto who dropped me home for a reasonable price.

End Remarks: The bus was KA-51-B-3197 - it was brand new. I did not notice the odo reading. It is too early to comment on maintenance - but they lose brownie points for the AC. The interior work was done by a major body builder based in Bangalore - the work quality was awful. The sheet metal work appeared as if it was done by a school student (it looked even worse) - poor workmanship was evident every where in the bus. The berth was soft enough, but the pillow region was rock hard. It seems like the body builder forgot to put enough heat and sound insulation for the engine - the engine was audible clearly, and heat penetrated well into the cabin. The driver was no good - he lugged the engine badly and was driving very badly. The AC kept cutting out very often due to the lugging. The running time was good, at 8h36m (on the higher side, but acceptable). The delays were awful - thats something the operator can control by a bit of indulgence.

Facilities:
Blankets: Yes
Water Bottle: No
Snacks: No

Ratings:
Maintenance (including cleanliness): 3.5/5
Punctuality: 2/5
Staff Behaviour: 4/5
Overall: 3/5

Will I take this service again? I am really not sure. May be I'll try once again - only when I have time to spare, though. But the bus has been getting good occupancy - so may be my experience was a one-off (sincerely hope so).

Comments

vinchel said…
Great review..
A rear engine bus can never be a perfect sleeper bus as the vibration and noise from the engine would sure be a hindrance to the last 2-3 rows of passengers.

I feel AL AC is still the perfect sleeper bus. I had once travelled Chennai-Coimbatore in a 2+1 AC sleeper. The bus was around 12 m. The berths were of average length but of good thickness and quite comfortable. The floor was the fake-wood type. I chose a side lower berth in the 3rd row. Once the cabin door was closed, the noise inside was zero. Had a very good sleep right from CMBT and woke up only in Coimbatore town.
Having made a short trip (EKM-TCR) in a KaSRTC Corona sleeper, it also looks to be a good product.
Chinchu said…
can u confirm whether this bus is a B9R or B11R

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