A quick trip to Thrissur on Kerala RTC's Ernakulam Volvo Multiaxle
This was not exactly an unplanned trip - but can still be called one. I had this in mind that I'd head home on 19th June from Bangalore. I had already applied for leave. As the date came closer, I remained undecided on which bus to take? I had this soft-corner for Kerala RTC, but wanted to try a particular private operator as well. As I remained confused, I decided to wait till the D-Day and then take the call. A day before the trip, a particular afternoon departing service of Kerala RTC was restored - I wanted to try that service. But the risk of heavy rains and night, and the prospect of having to travel from Thrissur to my hometown in an autorickshaw in heavy rains did not look inviting. I junked that plan.
June 19, 2014:
My initial plan was to head to Satellite Bus Station in the afternoon, and get into one of the four Volvo departing from Bangalore towards Thrissur. But the plan changed in the morning and I had a reason to return back home after work. I was at home by around 1300hrs - I still hadn't decided which bus to take. By the time I finished by work, it was already 1730hrs. Now it was impossible for me to reach Satellite Bus station comfortably and still have some choice. I quickly logged on to Kerala RTC's Saarathy portal, and booked a ticket for the 20.00hrs Bangalore-Ernakulam AC Multi-Axle service. I selected Seat #9 this time for a change. The last time I booked online for the same bus, but in the opposite direction. I selected Bommanahalli as my pick-up point and saved the PDF on my phone.
Like everytime, this time too I left home a bit late. I was 2015hrs already as I stepped out of home. My brother was dropping me at Bommanahalli, thankfully - since autos are unpredictable at that hour. I was dropped at Bommanahalli junction at 2035hrs. Kerala RTC's unique reservation portal does not mention pick-up times in its tickets! The bus leaves Satellite BS at 2000hrs - so I expected it to reach Bommanahalli after 2045hrs. In the meantime, the Bangalore-Thrissur deluxe, which leaves at 1930hrs rolled in to the bus stop. I called up a known person in KSRTC who confirmed at the bus left on time, and he informed that he has told the conductor about the Bommanahalli pick-up (He did not know that I was travelling, but based on the chart, just asked the conductor not to take BETL). The bus rolled into Bommanahalli bus stop at 2100hrs - he slowly crawled in blowing the horn in short bursts. I was the only person getting in from there - the conductor just confirmed my seat number and let me in. He came to my seat a bit later and checked the PDF and verified the ID proof. There were about 9 passengers in the bus including me - too bad for a Thursday! Poor marketing, and lack of initiatives from the staff to attract some passengers!
|The bus: RS782, KL-15-A-280, of Ernakulam depot. (Image from archives)|
The driver continued crawling - he was sticking to the middle lane (of the three lanes) and maintaining about 60~65kmph. The bus pulled into Electronic City bus stop, although there were no scheduled pick-ups. A passenger came running and asked for a Thrissur ticket - he was taken in, and we left at 2112hrs. After Electronic City, the driver picked pace quite well. I moved from my booked seat to a seat at the back - #29. No movie was played - the conductor said there was some problem with the player/disc and the movie got switched off abruptly and refuses to start. Well! No problems! I switched on a movie on my phone and remained glued to that.
Although I had dinner from home, I was feeling a bit hungry as the bus proceeded towards Salem. The particular service has a dinner break - and I was eagerly waiting for that. We passed by the normal places where the bus could stop - like Kamat, Dhaba, A2B @ Shoolagiri. We even passed Saravana Bhavan near Krishnagiri. The bus finally pulled into the worst place on the route - the even infamous Hotel Uthaiya (now renamed as Nandha Palace or Nandini Place - or something like that), at 2223hrs. I got off the bus - the place where we stopped killed all my hunger. I just got a packet of peanuts and roamed around for some time. I struck a conversation with the person who walked in at Electronic City - he did not have great remarks about the service. Major complaints being crew attitude, lack of blankets, etc. We started off after break at 2248hrs.
The driving was quite stable - he was interested in maintaining stable speeds than the regular spiky style of Kerala RTC crew. Except Trucks and TNSTC/SETC buses, all the other vehicles on the road seemed faster than us. A couple of private Volvo sidelined us, while some Karnataka RTC buses kept pace with us. The driver had a tendency to choose the longest and slowest queues at toll gates. His lane changes were well signalled. I slept intermittently - but kept waking up very often. I woke up suddenly when the bus crashed into a bad patch - this signalled that we were past Chengampally. There were some diversions due to an accident on the road - and the diverted lane (service lane) was not in the best shape. Lots of potholes, and rough patches - the driver banged the brakes quite a few times. I slept off after sometime, and woke up just as the bus stopped outside Gandhipuram SETC Bus station (0315hrs) - I am not sure if anyone got off, but nobody got in for sure. I liked this attitude of trying to get in some seats by entering the town. We stopped again outside Ukkadam Bus station (0324hrs).
I slept off soon after we left Ukkadam. This time it was quite continuous. I woke up hearing the sound of rain - it was lashing the windows. We were in Kerala already by then - infact, we were running through Walayar at that time. I dozed off again, and woke in just as the bus was entering Palakkad bus station (0432hrs). I guess the rain delayed us a bit. The timing till Coimbatore seemed good - we took about 6h15m including 25 minutes for dinner. The bus parked in Palakkad BS for some time - I guess they tried getting some passengers. We left the bus station at 0439hrs. The diversions from Palakkad Bus Station to get back into the highway continues to be confusing - the driver lost way somewhere, and the bus had to turn around on a very narrow road. All this caused quite some delay. I slept off again after the bus entered the highway. It was raining even then. I had another nice sleep - waking up just as we turn off the highway from Mannuthy. I was finally dropped outside Sakthan Bus Station, at 0610hrs. The stretch from Palakkad to Thrissur ended up taking 1h31m - quite high for a Volvo - We had actually entered the highway from Palakkad town at 0505 or so. I was quite drowsy as I walked down to the platform from where KSRTC buses to Kodungallur leave, and I found RNC170 waiting for me - this is the bus that ferries me from Thrissur to my home almost every time I come home.
End Notes: The bus, KL-15-A-280 (RS782) of Ernakulam depot, had some 27K kms on the odo. The speed governor in the bus seems to have been set to speeds higher than 80kmph now. The driving was good - except the brake show near Perundurai (due to diversions, abrupt road joints), the ride was very smooth. He maintained constant speeds wherever possible. The AC was set to comfortable settings - Blanket is still not provided. The crew were not very eager to get more passengers - this is where a major change in attitude is required. The running time was quite high - 9h10m for 454kms is certainly on the higher side - even discounting 25 minutes for Dinner, I feel its high. Probably I'll give the driver benefit of doubt because it rained quite hard. But interestingly, the scheduled arrival time at Thrissur is 0630, and we were about 20 minutes before time!
Charging Point: Yes (Left "ON" throughout)
Entertainment: Available, but not used.
Crew behaviour: 4.5/5
Will I take this service again? Sure. Even with the delay, I'll surely love to take this service again.