Monday, October 14, 2013

KSRTC Merc Benz: Thrissur to Bangalore yet again!

I was thinking of going home after a very very long time. The dates I was planning was still a month away - without another thought, I went ahead and checked on the Karnataka SRTC website. The Thrissur-Bangalore B9R was almost sold out already, while the Ernakulam-Bangalore Merc Tri-axle had a lot of seats - I decided to book on this one, and selected a seat around the middle of the bus. Days went past. As the traveling day came closer, I was unsure if I'd be able to travel. It so turned out that the weekend would be working, and I'd have to take a leave to go home. I almost dropped the plan to go home, but did not cancel the ticket. Finally, on Friday afternoon, I decided to head home (read here).

September 22, 2013:
I got the first message about my bus at around 6pm. The message mentioned my bus number to be "KA-01-F-9275" from "Bangalore Depot-2". That was the beginning - Karnataka SRTC kept sending me the same message time and again - I got the message no less than seven times before my bus came! I left home around 1900hrs - my bus was an hour and 40 minutes away - and the boarding point was about 36kms from home. I headed off to my nearest bus stop, and began my wait for a Kerala SRTC bus to Thrissur. The clock ticked past quite fast, but no sign of the KSRTC. A couple of private buses went by - but I wasn't interested. In the meantime a Kerala SRTC bus headed towards Kodungallur - so the service was running. A bus crawled into the bus stop at around 1915 - it was RNA165, a tired looking shabby bus from Thrissur depot - wonder why this depot doesn't maintain the buses that runs on our route.

The poor conductor came around with the good ol' manual ticket rack - the bus was quite dim lit and he struggled to issue tickets. The bus creaked, cried as we crawled to Thrissur - I was finally dropped at Thrissur bus station, around 8.35pm. With the change in entry point for KSRTC buses, the bus station has become all choked and hell - the jam caused by buses inside the bus station now extend all the way to the main road. The bus had dropped me at the entry itself - because it wasn't able to go inside due to the jam inside. I roamed around the bus station for some time, and then decided to be around the fuel station. My bus was supposed to leave at 2040, but it hadn't arrived even at 2100hrs!
The bus - KA-01-F-9275 (File photo)
It finally came in at 2102hrs - the driver parked the bus near the fuel station, somewhat blocking the exit. Boarding started immediately - I was too tired to wait, and quickly joined the queue to board. Like everytime, this time too, the bus was almost empty when it came to Thrissur, and it filled up here. I had selected seat #24 with a purpose - there are no window facing air-vents here - I quickly confirmed that my choice was correct. Like every time, boarding took a lot of time this time as well. We started off at 2126hrs - late by 46 minutes. The bus crawled its way through Round, and headed off towards Palakkad. We passed Mannuthy, and then started the joy-ride. The bus swayed left-right, jumped up-down as we squeaked and crawled our way towards Coimbatore.

The rear-axles were making a lot of noise. The awkward design of the air-vents made me quite uncomfortable. With no common air-vents, the coach was quite warm. The sound from the axle did not let me sleep at all. We passed Madukkarai toll at around 0030hrs - took a good three hours to crawl through the 100km distance from Thrissur to Madukkarai. I slept off after Madukkarai. I had continuous sleep afterwards, walking up around 0300hrs, when we were just past Salem. I was now quite worried - we were quite behind time already. I somehow slept off again, waking up as we passed Attibelle toll. The GPS tracking did not show some great speeds - but we made up quite a lot of time already. We passed Electronic City at 0606hrs. I headed out to the cabin now - and had a word with the driver. I asked him why are we so late - he smiled back and said, "I am early today sir". "We normally come by 0645~0700 only sir". I was dropped at Bommanahalli, at 0616hrs.

End notes: The bus, KA-01-F-9275, had about 3.54lakh kms on the odo. The bus was kept in quite good shape by Bangalore Central Division's Depot-2. There was a lot of rattling noise from the rear axles though. The seats were okayish - I am somehow never happy with the leg rest of the Merc buses. The absence of "common" air-vents kept the interiors quite warm - the individual air-vents too aren't of great help - no volume control and no proper air-direction control. The end-to-end ride took 8h50m, quite high for the distance. The top speed recorded by the GPS was 95kmph. The bus ended up taking about 3 hrs for the first 100kms, but then made up the rest in less than 6 hours - the driving was very nice - no harsh driving, no sharp cuts, absolutely "Sleep Like a Baby" style. KSRTC gives absolutely fresh blankets - that is a big plus as well. They change blankets at the end of each trip. The only problem is absolute lack of time management - even though the bus was running late, no attempt was made to make up time. Overall an above average package, quite different from my previous two experiences in the same route.

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

Ratings:
Maintenance (including cleanliness): 4/5
Punctuality: 4/5
Staff Behaviour: 5/5
Overall: 4.25/5

Will I take this service again? I'd. Its a cheap alternative, and I am okay as long as the bus makes it to Bangalore before 6.30AM.

Update: Image added.