Mumbai Quickie: Mumbai to Bengaluru by KSRTC Scania

I had too little options as I looked for buses to travel from Mumbai to Bengaluru - I wanted a seater bus, and wanted to avoid sleeper buses - since I was not comfortable in sleepers, for some reason. The only available seater options were either too early, or too late. After a lot of searching around, I decided to pick-up KSRTC - and booked on the first services, which originates from Mumbai Central. I was to spend the day in south Mumbai, and Mumbai central made sense.

February 18, 2018:
It was a hurried day - I was late to reach Mumbai, then hurried with my breakfast, then rushed to meet my fiancĂ©e, and finally ended the day with lunch. She accompanied me to the bus station to see me off - the bus was already parked there, but the entry to the bus station was confusing - thanks to the absolute lack of signages. The conductor quickly checked my ticket and let me through - I remained outside the bus for some more time before bidding adieu to her and settling into the metal box that would transport me to Bengaluru in reasonable comfort.

My Bus, as it prepares for departure from Mumbai Central..

We got moving at 1509hrs - two minutes behind schedule [I had caused this delay]. The driver was quite fast - we made swift progress through the mostly desolate roads of South Mumbai. Traffic was negligible, thanks to the fact that I was traveling on a Sunday afternoon. There were no pick-ups at Dadar or Sion, and there were hardly about 5 passengers onboard. The bus stopped a little past Sion to load parcels (!!) - the stop lasted about 10 minutes, and we got moving by 1545hrs. The conductor managed to attract a few passengers at Chembur Maitri park (1556hrs) and again at Vashi (1620hrs) - there were hardly any passengers to Bengaluru, and all the walkin passengers were to Pune - KSRTC appeared to charge lesser fares than MSRTC. We had a few pick-ups at CBD Belapur (1631hrs) and Kalamboli (1641hrs) before we entered the Expressway.

The bus was quite poorly kept - it rattled really bad, and the sound was a terrible inconvenience. The concrete topping on the expressway made for a very bumpy ride as well. No movie or music was played, and I had tuned in to a movie on my phone. The bus pulled into an amenity plaza near Khopoli for a break (1715hrs) - the crew requested all passengers to alight, and locked the coach before they left. The plaza was quite crowded - heavy weekend traffic. We got moving again by 1731hrs. Traffic thickened as we neared Pune - we stopped at Wakad to drop a couple of passengers (1851hrs). The bus turned off the bypass road towards Kothrud, as we had to enter Swargate bus station - which is one of the biggest negatives of KSRTC. Reportedly, their interstate agreement with MSRTC forces them to enter Pune bus station - bypassing which would actually improve passenger occupancy. We hardly had 50% occupancy in this trip - which is terrible for a Sunday evening.
At the tea break, near Khopoli

We dropped a few passengers at Kothrud, and had a few passengers joining us as well (1915hrs). Traffic was on the higher side, and we crawled our way to Swargate bus station. We got to Swargate by 1945hrs - they parked the bus near the exit and turned off the engine. Boarding commenced in about 5 minutes, and all the reserved passengers were on board by 2000hrs. KSRTC markets this service as a "split" schedule - more than 50% of the seats in this bus are blocked for passengers ex-Pune - really wonder why they operate to Mumbai, though. Even after boarding was completed, the bus wasn't full, and the aisle seat next to me remained vacant. We started off by 2008hrs - Eight minutes behind schedule. The progress to the highway was slow - thanks to Pune's notorious traffic.

I was quite hungry by now. I was looking forward to the dinner break - We weren't very fast on the highway, though. The driver chose to maintain speeds in the range of 85kmph most of the time. We stopped by at Hotel Amruta Garden, at a place called Sarola, by about 2109hrs for dinner. I was really hungry, and literally rushed in to have some food - the food was nice, a little overpriced - but the service was slow and lousy. The break was fairly long, and we got moving only by 2144hrs. I was tired from the heat and the exertion of the day - I really do not remember how long did I remain awake - slept off in no time, and had a fairly long sleep. I did wake up in between - the suspension was hard, and rough patches were transferred into the coach as such. The rattling sound from the overhead bins couldn't help either.

I woke up sometime around 0645, and I assumed we were closer to Tumkur - the website claimed at 0800hrs arrival at Bengaluru. I thought of confirming the location and fired up GMaps - I was shattered to find we were not even close to Tumkur - but over a hundred kilometres away from Tumkur! We were just nearing Hiriyur, and to add to my misery, the crew pulled in to Hotel Aditya (near Hiriyur) for breakfast (0705hrs)! A little after we reached, the next departure from Mumbai (this bus leaves Pune at 2100hrs - a whole hour after us) also joined in! I was in no mood to eat, and just spent time walking around. We started from there only at 0733hrs - the other bus was also preparing to depart by now! The driver showed no sense of urgency - we ambled along at 80~85kmph, although the bus was a few hours behind schedule! We dropped a passenger at Tumkur bypass (0857hrs) and continued our crawl towards Bengaluru. Traffic worsened as we neared Bengaluru, and toll gates were a mess. The other bus overtook us at one of these toll gates, and remained ahead of us for the rest of the time. We made a stop at Makali (0958) to drop a passenger in the meantime. I got off at Nagasandra at 1005hrs - a couple of passengers who needed to get to the city also got off here, since the Metro station was a short walk away!
Another pic of the bus (from Archives)

Summary: The bus, KA-57-F-1634 had clocked a little over 7.62lakh kms. The bus was homed at Bengaluru Central Division, Depot-4 - located in Shantinagar. There were three crew members - two drivers and a conductor - all of them were really well behaved, and soft spoken. The bus was in poor shape - rattles from the overhead racks, hard suspension and terrible ride quality - its high time KSRTC replaces these Scanias with newer Volvos. The bus took well over three hours extra compared to the published schedule - the bus had only reached Nagasandra past 1000hrs, when it was supposed to get to the city by 0830hrs! Terrible punctuality, and the crew did nothing to keep up time - and it seemed this was its usual timings! The choice of breaks were good - clean places with sufficient facilities. Not a journey I'd love to remember!

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, and worked well.
Entertainment: Available, not used.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 3/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 4/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 2.5/5 (Delayed)

Overall: 3.25/5

Pros: Nothing
Cons: Ride Quality, Delays, Wastes time entering Pune city

Will I take this service again? Hell no! Not unless I am left with no choices. 

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