TN-SETC AC Sleeper: Bangalore to Coimbatore

Sometime in June 2018: Tamil Nadu State Express Transport Corporation, the state's long-distance services operator, introduced new Sleeper class coaches - their top-of-the line offering, to date. As luck would have it, one was operated on the Bangalore-Coimbatore route, perhaps the only route where I had even a remote chance of trying them!

Fast Forward to October 2018: I and TW were planning to head to Kerala during diwali - TW is new to her job, and she was unsure of being able to get leaves on the days we wanted. We kept procrastinating our decision to book. Towards the end of October, I decided to bite the bullet and book a ticket. TW made it clear that she wanted a Sleeper coach. Just what the patient wanted - I quickly glanced at the other options I had, and came to the conclusion that the TN-SETC Sleeper coach to Coimbatore was the best option we had. Wasting no time, I headed to their website (www.tnstc.in) and grabbed two lower berths towards the front of the bus. Although the ticket wasn't very cheap, it was still cheaper than the other options open on that day.

November 03, 2018:
Our usual routine in the evening - a small difference that I hadn't attended office that day, and was pretty much free the entire day. I was all set, ready to travel by early evening. TW rushed through getting ready and packing our bags (rather, finishing the packing) - we were done by 1930hrs. The usual routine of taking a bus to the metro station, the train to Lalbagh, and an auto from there to Shantinagar repeated this time as well. We were at Shantinagar by 2100hrs, and repeated our regular routine of having dinner from A2B restaurant as well. We were out of the restaurant by 2135hrs - the restaurant had trimmed their menu due to the heavy crowd there, and this resulted in quick delivery of orders.

Our bus was already at the departure platform, but the driver wouldn't open the door for boarding till the conductor got the trip sheet - this is quite a departure from the usual scene, where the driver starts calling out for passenger the moment they come to the platform. After lot of persuasion, the driver started allowing in reserved passengers - but he was not ready to open the luggage bay initially. The conductor arrived by 2145hrs - he quickly checked tickets, and allowed passengers to get in. The driver opened the luggage bay now, and actually helped passengers in keeping the bags inside. He arranged them properly and secured the bay. The traffic controller at the bus station was ensuring that the buses moved forward and didn't hold up departures.
The bus: C477 (Archives)

Our bus kept inching forward as the buses ahead of us departed. We had 6 vacant seats - the conductor managed to get as many passengers as well. Although we couldn't depart at the scheduled time (2200hrs), we managed to move out of the bus station by 2213hrs. By now, the conductor came around to distribute the bed spreads (sufficiently wide for a single berth alone) and blankets. Water was available on sale (1 Litre bottles for Rs. 10) on board. Unlike the private operators, one had to make their bed themselves - the bed spread was made of cotton, and smelled fresh. The driver was quite fast - we were making quick progress already. We passed St. John's hospital by 2235hrs (there were no pick-ups) - traffic snarl began soon after St. John's - it was a painful crawl after that.

Traffic eased after Madiwala. The bus took the elevated highway, and made quick progress towards Electronic City. We stopped at the toll gate to pick passengers, and quickly resumed the journey to Coimbatore (2312hrs). The driver was quick - my GPS went on to track speeds in the 90s - he was soft during overtakes, and ensured a very comfortable and sleep friendly ride. I had a fairly nice sleep - did wake up time and again, but the bus didn't stop anywhere, or pull in to any bus station en route. The crew called a break and pulled aside immediately after Vaigundam Toll (0255hrs) - the crew announced a 10 minute break. There was a bakery and sufficient number of toilets. The break was a little longer than announced - we got moving at 0307hrs. The bus stopped at Bhavani to drop passengers (0335hrs).

I slept like a log after Bhavani - I vaguely remember the bus stop at Avinashi, didn't note the time though. I woke up only as the conductor came around shouting that we had reached Coimbatore. The bus stopped at Laxmi mills signal (0525hrs), then took a right and headed straight to Gandhipuram. We were finally dropped at Gandhipuram bus station (SETC Bus station) at 0529hrs - one minute earlier than the scheduled time!

Remarks: The bus, TN-01-AN-1784 (C477) of Coimbatore depot, was immaculately maintained. There were no scratches, no dents, no cracked glasses or patch works of any kind on the bus. The two crew members - Mr. Prabhakaran (the Driver) and Mr. Rangaswamy (the Conductor) were awesome - both were very helpful, and very politely spoken. In fact, one passenger asked the conductor about the arrival time at Coimbatore (asking the arrival time considered a bad omen by most crew members) - the conductor smiled, and replied in chaste coimbatore tamil, "we'll go on time sir"! That was very diplomatic - he did add that the bus usually reaches 0600hrs in any case. The driving style of both the crew members (both of them were driver-cum-conductors) were great - very stable, cautious and fast. I loved the driving style - and enjoyed the experience. Even with a 13 minute delayed departure, and peak day traffic, we managed to get to Coimbatore a minute early - a run time of 7h16m - including the 12 minute break. The fare is on the higher side - there are far cheaper options available on weekdays. If only SETC worked on having flexible fare! Overall, Outstanding service!

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: Available on sale
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available. Worked.
Entertainment: Not Available.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5 (late departure, before time arrival)

Overall: 4.95/5

Pros: Excellent service, Government bus
Cons: Fares could be high on weekdays.

Will I take this service again? Absolutely, yes!
The tail-ender

The tail end: We had to get to Palakkad from Coimbatore. We headed straight to the Kerala RTC counter at the bus station, and found that the next bus towards Palakkad was at 0600hrs - we got into the bus that would depart first. We were on board a Super Fast bus of Kottarakkara depot (ATK186) - seated in the last but one row. The bus departed from Coimbatore at 0558hrs - two minutes before time, with all seats occupied, and about 10 passengers standing. We stopped at a few places on the way, picked more passengers. The driver was ballistic - pushed the bus as far as he could. We were finally dropped at Palakkad KSRTC bus station, at 0702hrs - an hour and 4 minutes after we started from Coimbatore! We had an autorickshaw ride, and another bus ride to get to TW's home, later!

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