Chennai to Bengaluru on asianXpress: AX03 Volvo B9R iShift

Offlate, I've been getting this habit of traveling out of city without a return ticket. My trip to Chennai was no different. This time, though, I had to travel out with a return ticket, since I had no idea of how long my work in Chennai would take.

March 22, 2017:
My work was over well before I had imagined. I was free by 1015hrs - much much earlier than expected. My friend was coming down to meet me, and I returned to my hotel along with him. Once back at the hotel, my first priority was booking my ticket to return to Bengaluru. I did not do a lot of researches - I had my priority laid out, and headed straight to the asianXpress website. Plenty of seats were available for their afternoon departure from Chennai. Just cross-checked with redBus if there were any better offers - but there were none. The booking was done through the asianXpress website. I opted for a pick-up at T.Nagar - the pickup point was very vague though. I had to check out of my hotel by 1200hrs. My friend was to accompany me to the pick-up point - a great idea, also gives us enough time to talk!

A red Ford Figo rolled into the hotel's pick-up area soon after the Ola app confirmed my booking. The well-behaved driver appeared a little flummoxed hearing my drop point - since I was talking of a very unheard about hospital. He switched on navigation, but it turned out that the app showed a much longer route. The driver took a much shorter route, avoided a lot of traffic and landed in T.Nagar. We didn't have to struggle a lot to find out the pick-up point for the bus. After we located the pick-up point, I and my friend walked a little to find a place for our lunch. We opted for a light lunch from Indian Coffee House, instead of an elaborate lunch. As I walked into the hotel, I received an alert from the bus operator, mentioning the bus number along with the pick-up boy's mobile number. I was quite excited to find that I'd be traveling on AX03, asianXpress' newest Volvo B9R iShift coach.
That is AX-03 for me..

I continuously received updates from asianXpress about the location of my bus. The bus had passed Adayar well before time, and I had to hurry a little with my lunch. I headed to the assigned pick-up point soon after my lunch. There was no sign of my bus even after the clock ticked past 1300hrs (the assigned pick-up time). A quick look on their tracking app revealed the bus was stuck in traffic a little away. The bus finally turned up at 1316hrs - I was the sole passenger to board, and they quickly picked me and continued. A little ahead, a traffic cop flagged down the bus, and issued a charge memo for violating a "No-Entry" sign. It took quite some time to settle the charge. We moved on at 1330hrs.
Nothing beats the charm of a Volvo - I mean it!

The bus still smelt fresh - the interiors were clean and really well kept. The seats had rexine covers, and branded seat covers. The seats appeared a little narrower - not sure if it was only a feeling. The charging point was relocated, and was mounted behind the seat, in a very odd manner. The big box on which the charging point was fixed appeared quite out of size. The bus had a badge reading "AX03" fixed on the exteriors and interiors. AX03 is their fleet code, representing it to be their third bus.
The seats..

Oddly placed charging point..

Heavy traffic slowed our progress, and the pick-up boy kept receiving calls from their other pick-up points. We finally reached Koyambedu bus terminal at 1402hrs - about 2 minutes after the scheduled departure time. Majority of the passengers boarded here - Majority would be wrong, I must say "all except 2". We had a load of about 30 passengers - not bad for a mid-weekday departure. I got off the bus to click a couple of pictures of my bus. We finally started off at 1416hrs. Soon after departure from Koyambedu, the attendant came around distributing water bottles. Although the AC was running at full force, blankets were offered - not sure if someone asked, either.

A little into the journey, the sun appeared on my side, and I had to leave the curtains closed. Since no movie was played in the bus, I turned on a movie on my phone and remained locked to that. We had a pick-up at Poonamalle (1451hrs). The bus seemed to be loved by family travelers - there were lots of them. We stopped at Sriperumbudur (1514hrs), Kanchipuram (1539hrs) and Vellore (1650hrs) for pick-ups. Since the bus was new, it seemed to have been speed locked at 80kmph - the driver remained stable at this speed all though the journey. We made another halt at Ambur for a pickup (1731hrs). I was feeling a little hungry, but had no option but wait till we stopped at a hotel.
That was my bus!

We pulled in to Hotel Mangalam, past Krishnagiri, at 1840hrs. Mangalam has turned out to be the favorite hotel for buses on this route - I must say, they serve some good food, and are not very expensive. I had a light early evening snack - wouldn't really call it a dinner, since I wanted to have that at home. As I was finishing my dinner, SRS' Mercedes Benz from Madurai and Hebron Scania from Chennai joined us. It was a beautiful scene seeing a Benz, Volvo and a Scania lined up! The crew were quick, and they we back in no time. We finally started from there at 1908hrs. Night lamp was left on in the coach - Volvo seems to have borrowed the night lamps from Scania - it was too bright and almost appeared light the in-coach lighting in the first generation Volvos!

We stopped at Hosur (1943hrs) to drop passengers and continued. A fairly heavy block awaited us at Attibele toll, which we managed to pass by 1955hrs. By now, the driver began receiving calls about the whereabouts of the bus - really wonder why they should call up, when the bus is GPS tracked. It seems the bus had to return at 2200hrs from Bengaluru. We stopped at Hebbagodi (2010hrs) and Electronic City toll (2016hrs) to drop passengers. We took the elevated tollway to continue towards Silkboard. I finally got off at Silk Board by 2024hrs - about 14 minutes past the promised arrival time!

Closing notes: The bus, KA-09-AA-6162 was the newest in the asianXpress fleet. It had clocked a little over eleven thousand kilometres. The bus was clean inside out, and the crew were really well behaved. Very polite crew, who promptly responded to requests. The running time - 6h08m from Koyambedu to Silkboard was fantabulous - remember, the bus was locked at 80kmph! The bus had to wade through afternoon traffic in Chennai, and evening traffic into Bengaluru - and still managed to clock some impressive run times! Awesome journey, that was! I found two awesome operators on the Chennai route - both neck-to-neck in their timings and service!

Amenities:
Blanket: No
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Worked.
Entertainment: Available, Not used.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5 (Overall - good behaviour)
Punctuality: 5/5 (Arrived a little after time, but would still get a 5 on 5)

Overall: 5/5

Pros: Punctual, Great driving
Cons: Couldn't really find one - maybe the lack of a proper pick-up point at TNagar!

Will I take this service again? Absolutely! Recommended if you look for a no-nonsense operator

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