Thrissur to Bangalore: On a Kerala State RTC "Multiaxle"

I was fully undecided about my return journey after my vacation. Air Tickets for Sunday went at high rates, while I couldn't opt for a bus since I needed to be in Bangalore maximum by 4AM on monday. Tickets for buses leaving on Sunday were being sold for astronomical sums as well. I finally decided to take a bus on Saturday instead - and have a nice rest at home on Sunday, so that I can start off fresh on Monday. I decided to look for state buses - I hadn't travelled in a Kerala RTC multi-axle buses in a very long time - almost a year! This was the best opportunity for me to try them again - there were four options, and I briefly considered taking the last bus - but ruled out since that bus would reach Bangalore quite late in the morning. I finally decided to take the last Kerala RTC bus via Salem, which is the 1515hrs Trivandrum-Bangalore service. Booking was done online.

In the run up to my journey, I got a mild hint that I might get the Scania Metrolink 13.7M trial bus for my trip. Kerala RTC has been operating a Scania Metrolink HD 13.7M bus on trial bus since the past three months. They've been operating the bus on different routes since then, and had been shifted to the Trivandrum-Salem-Bangalore route a few weeks earlier. Going my spotting calculations, it would be the Scania trial bus that takes me back to Bangalore.

November 14, 2015:
Sometime past 1430hrs - I was busy roaming around in Ernakulam. An SMS popped up in my phone - that was the message containing details of the bus and the crew that would take me back to Bangalore. Next to the word Bus Number was the word "Scania" instead of any bus number! I jumped up in joy - it was indeed the trial bus that would take me back to Bangalore! I was really excited to have made it to the trial run by chance!

I left home sometime after 1915, after my dinner. My dad dropped me at the nearest bus stop. For some reason, no buses turned up for quite some time.As the time ticked past, I got tensed, and started thinking of alternatives. I finally got a bus that goes upto Irinjalakkuda, some 20 kms before Thrissur. From there, I got into an autorickshaw for the last leg. I made it to Thrissur by around 2100hrs. The bus station appeared unusually crowded - buses that left the bus station was also crowded - especially those heading to northern Kerala. I was to meet fellow busfan, Sankar, at the bus station - he was coming in from Ernakulam by a Bangalore bound bus - on calling him, I realised that there was heavy traffic, and his bus was still about 10kms away from Thrissur.

In the meantime, I ran into a conductor of Thrissur depot, whom I know fairly well - we stood there talking for quite some time, and by then Sankar's bus came in to the bus station. I came to know from him that there was heavy traffic block in Ernakulam, and all buses coming from that side was heavily delayed. I called up the conductor of my bus (using the phone number mentioned in the message I recevied), and he informed that the bus was atleast an hour away (about 70 kms away in Aluva). Sankar and I stood discussing a lot of KSRTC related stuff. Sometime towards 2300hrs, he headed out of Thrissur in a Guruvayur bound bus. I decided to have a tea and a fried Banana Fritter (പഴംപൊരി, അതിനാണ്) in the meantime.
The bus: KL-07-CD-6026 (photo from archives)
The Scania trial bus, KL-07-CD-6026, pulled into the bus station at 2304hrs. I had actually been standing at an empty platform - I was fairly confident that my bus would pull in there itself, since the other platforms were full. I was right - the bus came and stopped exactly where I was. In fact, the driver stopped a little before the platform, opened the door and let the second driver out - who guided the driver to the platform without ground the bus on the concrete vehicle stoppers. The second driver saw me carrying a bag, and asked if I had a reservation in the bus - when I said yes, he quickly opened the dickey  and let me leave my baggage in there. The conductor wasn't permitting passengers in, since a lot of passengers were alighting at Thrissur. I finally got in to the bus after he began boarding - there was no fuss about checking tickets - he just asked for my seat number and let me in. As soon as he let me in, he handed over a bottle of water to me. I was reserved in one of the last rows (purposefully, to enjoy the engine notes). I was quite surprised by the fact that the bus was full! Except the seats for those boarding at Thrissur, all seats were full! The conductor came around to do a headcount just before starting from Thrissur - since no blankets were on my seat, I asked him for one. His answer was atrocious - Its kept on the luggage rack, you can take it if you want. Probably my facial expression got him a message - he took one and handed over to me.

We finally pulled out of Thrissur bus station at 2314hrs. Instead of turning towards Sakthan nagar, and then towards Mannuthy, the driver headed straight towards Thrissur round, and then towards Wadakkanchery. I am not a fan of this route, primarily because the road is too windy, and it isn't a very comfortable ride if you are in a bus. The driver was quite fast, and honked quite often on this route. The bus had a musical horn - and it was a bit irritating. The seat felt a bit congested - might be only a feeling though. The engine sounded louder than in the Airavat Diamond Class bus that I came in, but the ride quality was far better. The suspension felt softer than the inbound bus.

The driver was very fast, and the body roll was very pronounced due to the winding roads - I couldn't sleep throughout the time the bus was on this route. We finally pulled into Palakkad bus station at 0034hrs, and parked near the fuel station. I am not sure if we took fuel from here, but a couple of passengers joined. We started off from Palakkad at 0049hrs. By now, sleep overpowered me, and I fell asleep in no time. The ride got comfortable after we left Palakkad - it got more stable, and there were lesser body rolls. The blanket was very heavy - it was made of the thick wool and not of synthetic fleece. I felt a bit uncomfortable in the blanket - but it was long and wide. The AC temperature felt perfect as well.

The sleep was very comfortable, and continuous. I vaguely remember seeing the bus pull in for a tea break - the time was around 0530, and it was near Krishnagiri toll (if I recognised correctly). I had another nice sleep, and woke up just as the bus pulled in to the Attibele toll gate (0628). I decided not to continue my sleep and instead pulled up the backrest. The driver was quite fast, and he kept overtaking vehicles through every possible lane - but I do not recall any rash maneuvers.We stopped at Hebbagodi (0642) to drop a passenger - the conductor got off the bus everytime to open the boot. Soon after we left Hebbagodi, I fired up a few taxi operator apps on my phone, and checked the availability of cabs at Silkboard. Kerala RTC crew have this habit of going through the BETL Elevated road instead of going below.

I wanted to confirm if the bus would go on the flyover or below - but I did not have to ask - the bus headed towards the flyover toll gate, and stopped to drop passengers getting off at Electronic City (0647hrs). I confirmed a cab as soon as we started from the toll gate. A couple of minutes after we entered the flyover, I decided to head to the cabin. I took a seat in the second row, instead of standing in the cabin. I was finally dropped at the beginning of silk board flyover at 0656hrs. The conductor opened the boot for me - my bag was easily reachable and I did not have a problem getting it out. However, that was not the case for a co-passenger - his bag had reached the other end of the luggage space - the conductor refused to help the passenger in retrieving the bag.

The 480-odd kms journey took 7h42m - including 15 minutes lost at Palakkad and some more time for the tea break near Krishnagiri. The running time was great for the distance. The bus had clocked over 70000kms - and seemed well maintained. There were no rattles - other than those caused by baggage hitting on the baggage racks. The engine seemed louder - I am not sure if that was a feeling or if there was difference between the buses that I am comparing. The ride was definitely softer. The leg space felt tight compared to Volvos. The overall ride quality was better than a Volvo. The crew behaviour is a major let down - the conductor did not seem very helpful. Helping passengers with their baggage is a small thing - but goes a long way in enhancing their travel experience. This was my first experience in a trial bus, and perhaps this was also the first time that Kerala RTC operated a non-KL15 registered bus on an interstate route. And, this was, perhaps, also the last trip of the trial bus on the trip - the bus has been returned to Scania, since.

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, did not use.
Entertainment: Available, not used

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 4.5/5
Crew behaviour: 4/5
Punctuality: 4.5/5 (Left almost two hours late, and arrival was behind schedule)

Overall: 4.5/5

Will I take this service again? Kerala RTC Multi-axle buses are the cheapest on the road on weekdays, but the crew behaviour is a major let down. I'd surely try them for their timings and fare.

Comments

C.A.Raghu Ram said…
Sad 😢 to see crew attitude, Vis Vis ktaka rtc,Pvt operators

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