Ernakulam to Bengaluru by the Airavat Club Class special

The last minute change in plans, the scramble for tickets, confusion, all ended up with me and my colleagues turning up at the railway station to travel to Kerala, without a return ticket. We had to return from Kerala on a Sunday, and buses appeared to be filling up soon. Trains were sold out as well. We had two options - to take a chance and book train tickets in Tatkal Quota; or book in a bus. My first stop was redBus, which showed some fairly expensive options. The next option was the KSRTCs. First was Kerala - they showed a really expensive option (all thanks to the stupid idea of charging end-to-end fares), which I was not interested in. Next was Karnataka, who had opened reservations for two special services! The last among the specials had lots of seats! The fare was on the higher side (compared to expectations), but we still decided to book.

March 19, 2017:
The clock slowly ticked towards 1700hrs. We were at a colleagues place near Pala, in Kottayam district. We had to get into a bus that departs from Pala at 1710hrs, in order to make it to Ernakulam, from where our Bengaluru bus would depart, on time. As luck would be, we reached Pala bus station only at 1714, and we saw the bus to Ernakulam leaving as we entered the bus station. We were quite far from the bus, and there was no way we could get into the bus. My colleague ran to the enquiry office, and was told there would be another bus a little later. But there was no sign of the bus even as the clock ticked past 1730hrs. Finally, we were told the next bus was only at 1830hrs! That might be late for us, and we decided to take a bus to Piravom that would depart a little earlier. The Piravom bus left at 1750hrs - we asked the driver about the traveling time to Piravom, and connections from there. He informed us that there is a bus to Ernakulam at 1920 from Piravom, and we should make it there before then.

The driver was quite fast - but the bus appeared to be really poorly kept. The bus struggled on inclines. We made it to Piravom by 1910hrs - well in time for the bus to Ernakulam. The Ernakulam bus was parked there as well - but that was an ordinary bus. We did not have options anyways. The driver of that bus told the bus would reach by 2030hrs - leaving us 18 minutes to connect to our bus to Bengaluru. The bus started off at 1925hrs - and was crowded from the beginning. As fate would have it, two faster buses to Ernakulam overtook us soon after we started from Piravom. Traffic thickened a little as we passed Petta, leaving me a little worried. I worked on alternative options, including boarding the Bengaluru bus from Vyttila (hoping the bus would come that way). I received an SMS containing details of the crew of our bus as we passed Vyttila. We finally made it to Ernakulam KSRTC bus station at 2035hrs. The bus to Bengaluru was parked right next to where our bus parked.

Our bus to Bengaluru - KA-01-F-9288 of Bengaluru Central Division, Depot-4, was parked at a corner of the bus station, right outside the amenities complex. Most of the passengers had already boarded. We left our bags in the luggage hold, and proceeded to board. The boarding process was simple, as usual. The conductor just verified the message and asked for one identity proof. The air conditioner was already running. The bus appeared full going by the number of people already on board. There were a few late comers and we finally started at 2053hrs - five minutes behind schedule. The bus exited on to Salim-Rajan flyover and turned towards Kaloor, instead of Vyttila. I thanked my fortune for not having believed the bus would come through Vyttila. The driver was lug happy right from the beginning - the NVH levels were very high. The overall maintenance, however, seemed really good.
The bus - KA-01-F-9288 during dinner break.

Traffic was negligible, since it was quite late. The run out of the city was eventless. We stopped at Aluva (2125hrs) to pick a passenger, and continued the run. Since we had arrived late at the bus station, I had checked with the crew if they would stop for dinner, and they had confirmed the bus would stop near Angamaly for dinner. I was looking forward for the dinner break, and I was quite hungry as well. We pulled into Hotel Sri Mu Saravana Bhavan, past Angamaly, near Pongam for dinner (2148hrs). This is one of the decent places where buses stop for dinner. I had a quick dinner and returned to the bus. The restaurant was quite crowded, since no less than 5 KaSRTC and a couple of  private buses had stopped there for dinner.

We started after dinner at 2216hrs. I remained awake for some more time - till we passed Paliekara toll (2240hrs). I vaguely remember passing Mannuthy - but had almost slept by then. I had a nice, continuous sleep after that. I do vaguely remember waking up at some toll gate - but didn't notice where it was. I woke up just as the bus pulled into Electronic city to drop a passenger! It was 0615hrs. I got off at Silk Board by around 0630hrs - a little behind schedule, but by all means, that was great running time for KSRTC.
Bags were tagged, and were delivered only on production of the counterfoil!

Ending notes: The bus, KA-01-F-9288 of Bengaluru-4 depot was fairly well maintained. It had clocked a little over 9.24 Lakh kms. Except the routine rattles from the overhead luggage racks, the bus was fairly silent. Driving was sleep friendly - no honking at night, no hard brakes, but a lot of lugging. The bus maintained stable pace all the time, making for a perfect sleepy environment. Crew attitude and behaviour was friendly as usual. KSRTC sstopped providing water bottles, which seemed like a step backward - water bottles were a great value addition, especially on such night trips. The running time - 9h37m for around 540kms, including a 28 minute dinner break is seriously good for a state carrier. Overall a good trip.

Blanket: Yes
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Worked.
Entertainment: Available, A movie played for a while.

Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 4.95/5 (Overall, good driving)
Crew behaviour: 5/5 (Overall - good behaviour)
Punctuality: 5/5 (Not considering the schedule timings for a special service, but based on actual running time)

Overall: 4.95/5

Pros: State bus, Driving
Cons: Higher fares, Lugging while driving

Will I take this service again? A great option if regular services are sold out.


Mac said…
Admire your reviews Binai ... they are neat, compact and yet so detailed !!

Just thought of sharing a piece of info i read sometime in Feb, KaSRTC has decided to stop purchasing water bottles and instead manufacture on their own for the premium services which apparently saves them upto 60% of the current cost (?) As per the MD. First plant coming up in Bengaluru shortly as per the news below, so looks like its just a temporary move to stop water bottles.
Binai K Sankar said…
Thats great new Mac. Would be nice if the news turns true.

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