Friday, March 28, 2014

The Airavat Club Class MercBenz yet again! Thrissur to Bangalore..

This one was a last moment trip. I was desperately searching for tickets for a journey from Thrissur to Bangalore, on a Sunday! Privates were priced out as usual - and I was searching only for STU tickets. I desperately wanted to try the new Kerala RTC Super Deluxe, but only the last row seats existed. That was surely not what I was searching for. The next target was my favorite 2131TRCBNG Airavat Club Class - this one too had only last row seats! Oh! The next option was 1828EKMBNG Merc Benz - this one was a 2115hrs pickup at Thrissur, but never comes or leaves on time. I thought twice before booking on this schedule - just for the dubious distinction. Left with no choices, I booked seat #37.

March 09, 2014:
It was 7pm already. There were no autos anywhere near my home. I had a bad pain on the first great toe joint on the right side - had to literally limp to the bus stop. My dad helped me with my baggage. I got a bus from there at around 1930. The bus was fairly crowded - quite unusual for that service, that too on a Sunday. The bus got more crowded as the journey progressed. I was unable to sit through due to the pricking pain from my toe joint. I was only hoping that the bus dropped me inside the bus station, and not outside as is the norm these days.My prayers were answered - the bus took a left and headed straight to the bus station - I limped out of the bus. The time was just 2030 - I still had over 45 minutes to go for my bus. It drizzled a bit - so I headed to the waiting shelter.

Sometime around 2045hrs, I thought I must move to the fuel station instead - this bus normally parks there. I had the biggest shock in my life - the bus was already standing there! I went there and double checked the registration number with the SMS - it was right! The crew were no where around. Some time later, the conductor came back and shouted "2115 Bangalore".. I was still dazed. Since this was a Merc, I had to leave my bag in the dickey - thanks to the narrow and shallow overhead racks in the bus. The AC was running, and my leg pain kept me glued to the seat. A Bollywood flick was being played as well. Passengers were trickling in one by one - I am sure all of them were shocked to see the bus already waiting for them - the opposite is normally true!
The bus - KA-01-F-9261 of BCD-2.
The bus moved out at 2120hrs - what if he came early, he surely left 5 minutes late. I was thrilled nevertheless with the bus coming early. By now the first movie was over, and the second movie started! The driver showed no urgency as usual. I moved the curtain to see where we were - but Voila! The baby was sleeping on my window! Now, how can I disturb a baby who is sleeping - so just closed the curtain and decided to travel blindfolded! I decided to sleep - I was just about starting to sleep when I felt the bus was stopping somewhere. The bus reversed somewhere, the AC went off followed by the engine - and the conductor shouted out "10 Minutes break"! What? Are you kidding me? The time was 2203hrs, and we were near Mangalam Palam.

The crew walked away - it was like a hot-air oven inside the bus in minutes after the AC went off. I had no option but to limp out of the bus. Remained outside till the crew came back. The bus started off again at 2226hrs - a 23 minute break. I came to know from other passengers that the bus hadn't taken a dinner break at Angamaly - so this was the dinner break! If this change is becoming regular, they need to change the departure time at Thrissur. I slept soon after the bus started. The window facing vents did make things a bit difficult. The prick from the leg did keep reminding me time and again. I somehow found that comfortable position to sleep - and just slept comfortably. I was woken up sometime in between - we were leaving after another break (at Surya??). I slept again - only to be woken up by the ubiquitous "Electraanic City" call - it was 0557 now. I was dropped at Bommanahalli at 0604hrs. The end-to-end running time was 08h44m - including a 23 minute break for dinner, and unknown time for the tea break at the dreaded Suriya!

End Notes: The bus was KA-01-F-8261 from Bangalore Depot-2. The bus had over 4.6lakh kms on the odo. The distance run was 454.4kms (had noted odo readings before start and while getting off as well). The bus was well maintained - far better than the buses from Depot-4. The driver did not lug the engine much, but he was certainly slow. But I guess he maintained pace most of the time. The crew was surely well behaved, and the bus was clean inside out.

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes (a fresh one)
Water: Yes (500ml in a bottle specially labeled "for KSRTC")
Charging Point: Yes (ON throughout the journey)
Entertainment: Available, two movies played

Ratings:
Maintenance: 4.5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 4.5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4.75/5

Overall: 4.5/5

Will I take this service again? Not really - I prefer a bus that originates at my place. But this is a good option nevertheless.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Thrissur to Bangalore.. in 2131TRCBNG yet again!

The 2131TRCBNG Airavat Club Class schedule has off-late been a service of choice for me. The service is quite consistent - and being a service starting from Thrissur has been a plus point for me. Its been a routine for me to keep a ticket book for this for Sundays following the Third saturday of every month. February was no different. I normally book the same seat as well - #17.

February 16, 2014:
It was around 7pm on my watch - I was on my way from my home to Kodungallur in a rickety private bus. It creaked its way to Kodungallur municipal bus station, dropping me there around 1915hrs. There was no KSRTC bus to Thrissur there - but I decided to wait. After some moments of waiting, I saw RT285 of Thrissur came in and reversed into the platform. For some reason, Kodungallur municipal council feels that KSRTC and Private buses should not be parked in the same area - this meant that KSRTC buses get poor loads and often are not noticed by passengers (except those in the know). The bus started off at 1930 and reached Thrissur around 2045hrs (took quite longer than usual) - on the way the driver was threatened by a private bus crew against overtaking them. I felt sad for these drivers. As usual the driver stopped a little away from the KSRTC bus station and then headed off for refueling, at Sakthan Nagar.

I walked into the bus station at around 2050hrs. Thrissur bus station is a mess on Sundays - the bus station is too cramped and there would hardly be space to stand. At around 2100hrs, my bus was brought out of the parking, but the security guards at the bus station stopped the driver from taking the bus to the boarding area. In the meantime, I got the SMS with bus number and crew's contact number. The bus remained away from the boarding area until around 2110hrs. Then the driver brought it inside, but this irked the security staff - they picked up a quarrel with the crew. The security guys argued that KaSRTC is permitted to park at the platform only 15 minutes before departure time. As the quarrel continued, the clock ticked past 2115hrs - the driver now took the bus to an empty platform that he saw. The security guys were still irked, and they foul-mouthed the ACC crew.
The bus - KA-01-F-9147, bring brought in for departure.
In the meantime, boarding commenced. The conductor swiftly checked tickets and verified identity proofs. I got in an occupied my seat quickly. Unlike on normal days, the crowd was light that day. The bus was only half full - I was shocked. The bus started off at 2139hrs - 8 minutes late. The conductor had picked up some unreserved passengers as well, and some tickets to Palakkad. The conductor now explained their sorry tale - it seems the fight with the security guys are regular incidence now. They don't let the buses come to the platform early, and they abuse the crew when the come a bit early. He was saying that they have collection targets and the 15 minute time allotted is too less for a service like theirs. While I did sympathise a bit with the crew, I felt they could instead use the idle parking area to park the bus and call for passengers.

The driver did not seem in a hurry at all - he took his sweet time to pick pace. I dozed off for a while in between, and woke up just as they bus turned off the highway, to reach Palakkad bus station. Quite unusually, the bus entered the bus station to pick-up passengers (2302hrs). The bus filled up here - almost 25 passengers got in here. We started off at 2311hrs from Palakkad. I slept off after Palakkad - quite a nice sleep then. I should agree to this - the drivers are really sleep friendly. They don't honk, brake hard or cut rashly - they do let passengers sleep like a baby. I slept continuously, until we reached Attibele - it was 0553 then. We were late.

The bus stopped at Electronic City - a whole lot of passengers got off here (0610hrs). We crawled for some more time, and I got off at Bommanahalli exactly at 0621hrs. We were quite late by regular standards, and I was a bit upset by the delay as well. We took almost 9 hrs (8h42m) to run 454kms without any breaks! Thats high for the distance, for a premium bus.

End Remarks: The bus was KA-01-F-9147. The bus had about 5.68 lakh kms on the odo. She had been running to Ernakulam earlier - and this bus had a full sized emergency exit. Maintenance was quite average - it squeaked and rattled quite a bit. The interiors were good though. Driving was good as usual - very sleep friendly. Like every time, this time too, I repeat that they need to tighten the timings of their premium services. They should avoid wasting time unwantedly. Otherwise, its surely a great option - very pocket friendly as well.

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes (a fresh one)
Water: Yes (500ml in a bottle specially labeled "for KSRTC")
Charging Point: Yes (ON throughout the journey)
Entertainment: Available, but not used.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 3.5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 4.5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4.75/5

Overall: 4.5/5

Will I take this service again? Most Certainly YES! Its already one of my most preferred services.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Airavat to Thrissur, via Gudalur, yet again.

Another trip home. That week was punctuated with journeys all along - so much that I was spending two nights in a bus, then one night at home - then again two nights in a bus. With all the travelling thrown in, I was quite unsure about traveling home until early Friday morning. I hadn't booked any ticket (I had a confirmed ticket for my return journey though). My sister-in-law asked me to confirm my plan - I decided to dive in. I booked the ticket immediately through my Mobile - the new Avatar App from KSRTC is quite good. It loads a bit slow, but works fantastically. My favorite seat was gone - only the last four rows were available, and some seats on the right side. After my last experience, I decided never ever to book a seat on the right side in an Airavat. I went ahead and booked seat #36.

February 14, 2014:
I left from work after noon. I was a bit late to start. Every minute made me nervous - and there was no bus in sight. As clock ticked past 1330hrs, I decided to take an auto. I was a bit worried about the auto meter running faster than the auto itself. I was dropped at the Satellite bus station on Mysore Road at 1430hrs. After light refreshments, I headed to the platform from where my bus would depart (Platform #7). There was no sign of my bus even after 1500hrs - as usual. This particular service (1500BNGTRC) is operated by Mysore-2 depot. The bus comes as a Mysore-Bangalore service and returns as Bangalore-Thrissur - hence, if the bus leaves late from Mysore, they end up late everywhere. The bus landed up at 1506hrs - it was KA-09-F-4696 that day.
The bus: KA-09-F-4696, posing at Mysore.
I received an SMS with the bus number about 3 minutes after the bus came. I guess the SMS is sent out when the trip sheet is generated. Soon the conductor came back with the reservation chart - and by then passengers mobbed the bus. I chose to remain a little away waiting for the crowd to settle. Soon after the crowd settled down, I got into the bus. Like everytime, the mTicket was checked, and the conductor verified my ID proof. The interiors look quite dull - maintenance was about average. Unlike last time, this time the crew did not waste a lot of time scouting for passengers - we reversed out of the platform at 1515hrs. We made a brief halt at the Mysore platform and we finally left at 1520hrs - a moderate 20 minute late.

I was very tired by all the journeys in the week. I was not in a mood to sit and enjoy the trip actually. I left my phone for charging. As soon as the bus started moving, the gentleman in the seat ahead of mine, pushed back his seat - I was locked tight now. I moved to the aisle seat instead. A movie was played. Mysore depot normally uses USB drives to play movies - I really like that attitude. Its far better than having scratched discs that stop every now and then, or skips scenes when the bus goes over a pothole. While the movie was quite interesting (the Hindi remake of a recent Malayalam blockbuster), I badly wanted to sleep. Dozed off for some time. Since the sun was on my side, I had left the curtain closed - this meant that I never knew where I was.

We reached Mysore at 1809hrs - in fact, I realised that we had reached Mysore only when we entered the bus station! I used this as a break to stretch a bit - walked around the bus station for a while. The crew were waiting for one passenger to turn up. We started from Mysore at 1829hrs - 9 minutes late. The driver slowed down after Mysore - he was crawling at places. By now the second movie was reaching its climax. We stopped for Dinner, at Hotel Coffe Stoppe, short of Gundlupet - at 1950hrs. Some KeSRTC buses, one Mysore-Ernakulam KaSRTC Volvo and an unknown Rajahamsa was parked there. This is a hotel used by almost all the buses that go this way. I have been to this place multiple times - the food is okayish and not overcharged. The service is a bit slow though.

We left from there at 2020hrs - I was a bit worried now. We had to pass the forest checkpost before 2100hrs and the driver showed absolutely no hurry. He crawled through Gundlupet town, stopped outside the bus station, then crawled again. We passed the forest checkpost at 2042hrs - I let out a sigh. The roads were okayish in Karnataka. We passed the state border at 2103hrs. There was heavy checking at the state border - our bus wasn't stopped though. Roads were inexistent as we entered Tamil nadu. We finally exited the forest at 2133hrs. The driver continued crawling. We reached Gudalur bus station at 2145hrs - picked up a passenger and left at 2146hrs. I slept off after Gudalur - a nice sleep. Woke up intermittently, and found the bus crawling everytime. I woke up when the bus stopped at Guruvayur - guess it was outside the private bus station. The time now was 0109hrs - we were over an hour and a half late now. I did not notice when we started off, or which route we took out of Guruvayur. We stopped at Puzhakkal to drop a passenger (0137hrs) and continued. We finally reached Thrissur KSRTC bus station at 0146hrs - almost two hours behind schedule (the scheduled arrival time was 2359hrs).

Ending notes - The bus was KA-09-F-4696. She had about 8.16lakh kms on the odo. The crew were well behaved. Driving was good - but too slow once we entered Kerala. He took a good 4 hours from Gudalur to Thrissur in the night - last time we had taken around 45 minutes lesser. Maintenance was awful - the rear suspension made all kinds of noises one can imagine. The interiors were average - it showed age. Exteriors were in great shape though. The end-to-end running time was about 10h26m. The last time, a Kerala RTC non-AC Leyland, which came via the same route took only 9hrs!!


Amenities:
Blankets: Yes
Water: Yes
Charger points: Available (it worked throughout)
Entertainment: Available (3 movies were played back-to-back)

Ratings:
Maintenance: 2/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 4/5
Crew Behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

Will I take the service again? Its a good option, and quite easy to get tickets during weekends as well.