Bangalore to Trivandrum: Kerala Lines Scania

A trip to Trivandrum was in the drawing board since long. My friend's marriage at Trivandrum was just what I wanted. I had to wait for until a few days before the trip to book my ticket due to issues with getting leaves from office. I wanted to get to Trivandrum early in the morning, and had researched quite a bit about buses that reached early, and had almost zeroed in on a particular departure of KSRTC (Kerala). I spoke about this to a good friend, who suggested that I try Kerala Lines, who was starting a new service that reaches Trivandrum by 0600hrs. Although this service was not listed at the time, I waited till the service was listed. The bus came online a few days before the trip, and I was among the first to book a ticket by this bus. The return journey was also by Kerala Lines (more on that later).

May 01, 2019:
It was normal working day at work. Since it was a holiday for most offices in the city, traffic was on the lighter side. I was planning to take the metro to my bus' pick-up point in Kalasipalya - but some last minute confusions took me to the uber app - which showed a uberGo listed at prices that I would incur if I took a metro! I left office some time past lunch hour, and the cab ambled its way to Kalasipalya. Traffic was on the higher side as we neared Kalasipalya - finding the boarding point was a little tricky, but the landmarks helped. SK Travels in Kalasipalya was the boarding point - a guy at the office checked my ticket, and asked me to wait. I roamed around a bit before returning to the office. By, now about 5 more passengers for the same bus had arrived. The scheduled pick-up time was 1415hrs, and there was no sign of the pick-up vehicle (or the bus). A Tavera arrived a little past 1420hrs - this was a cab arranged by the travel operator to transport the passengers to Madiwala (which was the starting point for the bus).

The taxi guy dropped all of us at Madiwala by 1455hrs - with over 35 minutes to go for the bus. The bus was already parked outside the office - a new Scania Metrolink HD 14.5m coach, which was garlanded and all ready for the trip. I headed to their office, met some good accomplices there, and spent some time with them, before heading out for some tea and stocking some snacks. Boarding for the departure commenced after the crew performed a pooja (offering to God) - sometime around 1520hrs. Boarding was quite quick as well. The boarding chart showed that there were very healthy bookings on the day - all but 4 seats were taken on the day. Majority of the passengers boarded from Madiwala itself. The bus got moving at 1533hrs - about 3 minutes behind the scheduled time.
The driver breaking a coconut before he takes to the wheels!

The bus took the road towards Madiwala market, and made another stop to pick-up passengers outside Madiwala police station (1544hrs) - a three minute break to pick passengers and then got moving. A couple of passengers were picked up after Silk Board flyover (1550hrs) and then took the elevated highway towards Electronic City. There was a quite some traffic at Electronic city toll gate - we took the extreme left lane, and were able to crawl through somehow. We had pick-up at Electronic city toll gate (1602hrs) - this was quick, and we got moving by 1604hrs. The driver picked pace after this pick up, and we rushed towards Attibele soon later. Attibele toll was passed at 1626hrs (it took about 5 minutes to clear this toll) - since the vehicle was still new, the FasTag wasn't active yet, and we had to go through manual toll lanes.
The bus at the Kerala Lines' office, at Madiwala, Bengaluru

There was some traffic near the motor vehicles check post as well - we dodged the traffic some how and rushed towards Hosur. Few more passengers joined here (at the flyover near the bus station) - and got moving by 1634hrs. I was expecting a tea break after Hosur - but that was skipped, and we rushed towards Krishnagiri. Krishnagiri toll gate was packed - a much longer and disorganised queue than at Attibele, consuming close to 10 minutes - we picked one passenger right after the toll gate, and continued the trip (1709hrs). The driver stepped on the pedal to make up some time we had lost by now. Traffic was on the higher side - there were too many trucks on the road, and it, certainly, slowed down our progress. We got stuck in a traffic snarl at Thoppur toll gate as well - this one was again long, and consumed close to 10 minutes. The bus stopped for a quick break right after Thoppur toll gate (1818hrs). Since the restrooms at the toll gate were closed, the driver moved the bus a little ahead, to a bakery. The break took some time - this was the first one after we left Bengaluru. Since the bakery hadn't expected this bus to stop, they took some time to serve different items. We started off after the break at 1832hrs.

It got darker now, and the night lamps were turned on inside the bus. The driver maintained his pedal-to-metal style of driving. We were quite late by now, and he had to make up some time. We reached Salem (AVR Circle) by 1923hrs (against the schedule time of 1900hrs) - pick-up was real quick, and we got moving by 1924hrs. The driver was quick after Salem - I was expecting a dinner break near Vaigundam, but that didn't happen. We continued our surge towards Coimbatore. The bus stopped at Bhavani to drop a passenger (2015hrs), and went inside Chithode town (2022hrs) to drop a passenger as well. I was quite curious about where they'd stop for dinner - we passed Perundurai, and then Chengampalli. I had my eyes on all the hotels along the route, but the driver showed no signs of stopping. The bus went below the flyover at Avinashi bypass, and finally pulled into Cafe Udupi Ruchi for dinner (2112hrs).
The bus when it stopped at Thoppur

The restaurant appeared like a 'Food court' - it was a quick-service styled restaurant. The waiting staff were smartly dressed - orders were placed using a hand-held tablet computer. I was quite hungry, and opted for an overpriced average tasting Udupi Butter Masala Dosa - using the word butter is wrong, since all it had was one-fourth of a teaspoon of Butter on it! The dosa wasn't sufficient to satisfy my hunger - ordered one more item, which was never served. I walked out of the restaurant after paying for the dosa that I had, and had some snack from a nearby bakery instead. The restaurant was clearly not equipped to handle the sudden inflow of customers from a bus. Since there aren't too many options on the route, that could accommodate buses, this restaurant might become the regular halt on the route. We got moving after dinner by 2150hrs. We were quite behind schedule already, and the driver was trying his best to make up some more time. The bus turned towards Coimbatore town from the bypass, and had a string of stops to drop passengers - Airport (2221hrs), lakshmi mills (2231hrs), Gandhipuram bus station (2235hrs) and finally Omni bus station (2240hrs).

The bus had entered the bus station, and the local agents came to the bus to handle the departure - quite a few passengers joined in (including my new co-passenger). The bus finally got moving at 2246hrs. Coimbatore town had almost slept by now and traffic was really light. The bus exited the city very soon, and joined the highway. I was quite tired, and dozed off soon after we passed Madukkarai. I woke up sometime around midnight, and found the bus stationary - we were at Walayar check-post. I assumed this would be the usual stop at the incoming checkpost and dozed off again. The bus was still stationary when I woke up a half an hour later. I realised later (based on my google map tracking) that we lost over 40 minutes at the check post - the MVD Inspectors had stopped the bus on the pretext of 'checking' and we purposefully delaying the bus.

I continued sleeping, and woke up only when the lights were turned on - we were at Mannuthy (0147hrs). Office staff from Kerala Lines office boarded from here, and were actively coordinating with passengers who would be joining en route. The bus started at 0151hrs, and quickly turned off the highway towards the city. We stopped near the KSRTC bus station at 0202hrs, picked passengers, moved forward and stopped again outside the Kerala Lines office. All passengers were picked up, and we finally got moving by 0208hrs. I was awake till the bus reached Paliyekara toll gate - there was a traffic snarl here as well. I slept quite well after that, and woke up just as we were departing from Edappalli (0328hrs) - I dozed off again, only to wake up as the bus was departing from Vyttila (0337hrs). Another nice long sleep after that. I woke up shortly before the bus stopped at Kollam (0608hrs) - stops were real quick - the crew showed a sense of urgency, and were sincerly trying to make up some time - as much as they could.

We dropped passengers at Attingal (0651hrs) and then at Kazhakkoottam (0709hrs) - I was expecting the bus would head via the bypass, but the driver turned towards Sreekaryam instead. There were drops all along the way (a good decision, since it helped a lot of passengers) - and finally pulled into Thampanoor (stopped right outside the KSRTC bus station) at 0738hrs - about an hour behind schedule. The bus would've reached perfectly on time if not for the time lost at the check-post.

Remarks: The bus, KA-59-1695, was quite fresh, with only about 5000kms on the odo. The bus was in great shape and the interiors were quite fresh. The crew deserves a standing ovation - the driver was extremely polite, and he did not lose his cool even when passengers took extra time at any of the breaks. He did not honk too much - was silent once it was night. The attendant was quite helpful - he helped every passengers with their luggage. Two movies were played back-to-back in the bus - both were recent malayalam flicks. Considering the traveling population, I think atleast one should've been a Tamil movie. The ride quality was great, and the driving style was a little on the aggressive side - understandable since he had to make up some time. The end-to-end running time of 16h05m is on the higher side - but then we did lose a lot of time at toll gates and the MVD checking. The scheduled running time is an hour lesser, at 15 hours - which is normal for the route the bus takes. The bus did put up some spectacular performance in Kerala - 5h30m from Thrissur to Trivandrum, and only 4h01m from Vyttila to Trivandrum. Great show by the crew, and I am sure the bus would get its timings corrected over the days!

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, worked.
Entertainment: Available, 2 movies played

Ratings:
Maintenance: Irrelavant (new bus)
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5 (Overall, good driving)
Crew behaviour: 5/5 (Overall - good behaviour)
Punctuality: 4.5/5

Overall: 4.85/5

Pros: Value for money, excellent service
Cons: Nothing

Will I take this service again? Absolutely. I do not travel to Trivandrum frequently, but would love using this service to head to Thrissur!

Comments

Unknown said…
Since the staff did pooja before starting I believe it was the first trip of that bus for Kerala Lines. But then odo shows 5000 kms. So maybe the first trip on that particular bus by that particular crew set?
Last week on a trip back to Bangalore from Ernakulam by KKN (Kalyani Travels), we were stopped twice by MVD. Once at Edapally and then again after Paliakara toll. Net time wasted coz of that was around 30 mins.
Binai K Sankar said…
This was the first trip of this service. The bus had run two trips earlier to Kerala, and they did not want to send a brand new bus on a route that had demanding timings.
C.A.Raghu Ram said…
Are there no buses via Madurai Tirunelveli nagercoil reaching tvm by early morning? They may be able to make it by 14hrs

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