Thiruvalla to Bengaluru: on Kerala RTC's Leased Scania!

I hadn't looked at too many options before I booked this one, for our return journey (I and my colleagues) after a colleague's wedding. Although we had briefly romanced the idea of taking a train - lack of trains that get to Bengaluru sufficiently early for us to get to office, and lack of tickets forced us to drop the idea. There were suggestions to take a sleeper bus - but then almost all of them reached Bengaluru past 0700hrs, and would drop us in the southern part of the city, leaving us to fend our way to the northern part of the city, and still be in time for office! Finally, we returned to the original plan - the Kerala SRTC Scania service from Pathanamthitta to Bengaluru - this one would pick us from Thiruvalla itself (where our colleague's wedding was happening) and would drop us near our places by 0730hrs - giving us sufficient time to head to office. This particular service is operated using a bus leased from a private operator (on a wet lease - with the driver supplied by the lessor, and the conductor appointed by KSRTC).

May 19, 2019:
We reached Thiruvalla from our colleague's place by around 1700hrs - we were quite hungry and wanted to have some food. Our first stop was Hotel Arya Bhavan - after a sumptuous evening snack, we headed out to buy some stuff to carry back to Bengaluru. We were at the KSRTC bus station (our pick-up point) by about 1745hrs. We remained at a platform that was marked as 'Bangalore'. I received a call from the conductor a little past 1800hrs, informing that the bus was 15 minutes away, and that the bus wouldn't enter the bus station. He further added that we must wait near the entry gate of the bus station - that made sense, because the bus station's layout seemed quite tight, and I was wondering how the bus would come in.

The bus arrived by 1817hrs - about 17 minutes behind schedule. Boarding was quick - the conductor opened the luggage bay, and let us leave our bags inside. He quickly verified tickets and let us in. A few more passengers boarded here. The bus got moving by 1818hrs - a delay of 18 minutes. The interiors were clean, and appeared quite well kept. No movie was played - however, some songs were being played. The charging point was working. The bus had about 60% occupancy at this point. The driver was fast from the word go - he was rash at times as well. We passed Changanassery by 1835hrs - we did not enter the bus station, or stop outside it. I was a little tired, and wanted to doze off for a while - but the driving didn't help. The bus swayed quite badly as the driver made quite rash overtakes and did a few hard braking! The bus pulled into Kottayam bus station at 1904hrs.
The bus, after arrival at Bengaluru

The bus had to wait for quite some time to get reserved passengers on board. The conductor managed to get a few unreserved passengers on board to fill some- empty seats (mostly until Thrissur). We got moving from Kottayam at 1915hrs - 15 minutes behind schedule. The traffic on road kept rash driving at bay -  we got to Ettumanoor by 1935hrs - picked passengers, and got moving by 1937hrs (27 minutes behind schedule now). The driving got worse as the bus left town limits and traffic thinned out. The bus continuing swaying quite badly as the driver changed lanes quite frequently. I had to keep myself occupied lest I feel the temptation to throw up. We stopped at Kuravilangad for a while, and then got moving by 1958hrs. The next stop was at Muvattupuzha - 2033hrs. The last time I came here, the bus station was under re-construction. A new bus station stood at that place now. Boarding took some time here - the bus was stopped outside the bus station. We got moving by 2038hrs - 38 minutes behind schedule now.

I was quite hungry now - the rash driving had hastened food digestion. The bus stopped at a small hotel at Pezhakkappalli (before Perumbavoor) for dinner (2050hrs). While my colleagues didn't want to have dinner, I went ahead and had some food. I topped it with a juice from a nearby shop as well. At this point, I had a look at the bus from outside - it had plenty of scars and accident damages. The entire exteriors looked like it was in a war zone. I got back into the bus as the crew returned and turned on the air-conditioner. We got moving at 2115hrs. We made a quick halt at Perumbavoor, and got moving by 2136hrs. The rash driving continued, as we made swift progress towards Angamaly. The bus made a brief halt at Angamaly (2156hrs), where the second driver joined duty. I was hoping the driving gets better as we enter 4-laned roads - but in vain. The bus stopped just before Chalakudy flyover to drop some passengers (who had joined at Kottayam) - and got moving by 2211hrs.

I dozed off slightly - waking up just as the bus left Paliyekara toll gate. Motor Vehicles Department officers were checking private buses - I'd say harassing them and passengers on the pretext of implementing laws. We got to Thrissur bus station by 2241hrs - over an hour and 10 minutes late. Fortunately, a platform was empty and we directly parked there. Another bus to Bengaluru gave us company. Boarding took time here as well - the conductor had to call up and get some passengers to board the bus. Few announcements were made on the bus station's PA system as well. We finally had everyone on board, and backed out at 2253hrs - an hour and 23 minutes late! I dozed off soon after the bus started from Thrissur.

I woke up as the lights inside the coach were turned on - the bus was parking near the fuel station at Palakkad bus station (0003hrs). A few passengers got off here - and new ones joined in. I think the bus took in some fuel as well (not sure - I was quite groggy). We got moving from Palakkad at 0013hrs - an hour and 08 minutes behind schedule. I dozed off soon later. I had a nice long sleep - the driving was better now, I guess the driver had changed. I woke up as the bus joined a long queue of vehicles at Attibele toll gate - it took some time to clear this toll gate (0541hrs) - we were almost on time now. The bus made a quick stop at Electronic city toll gate (0600hrs), dropped passengers and took the elevated highway towards Silkboard. The first driver was now at the wheels - he continued his zig-zag driving on the elevated highway as well. We got into some really terrible traffic block as we neared Silk board. We got to Silk board flyover by 0628hrs, dropped more passengers and continued.

Traffic was worse after Silk Board. We managed to get to Madiwala by 0633hrs - dropped passengers and continued. We crawled for most of the time after this - got to Lalbagh by 0648hrs. I was hoping the bus takes the route via Majestic, but the driver turned left at Town Hall and headed straight towards the Satellite bus station on Mysore road. We got to Satellite bus station by 0704hrs (about 19 minutes behind schedule). The driver seemed to have gotten a boost after Satellite - he driver was fast and equally rash after this point. We got to Goraguntepalya by 0726hrs, and finally reached the terminating point, at Basavershwara bus station by 0733hrs - 13 minutes behind schedule now.

Remarks: The bus, KL-01-CD-5469 (TL6), based at Pathanamthitta depot of KSRTC, had about 4.09 Lakh kilometres on the odo. The bus has been serving KSRTC since November of 2017 and was initially homed at Trivandrum. The bus is owned by MahaVoyage LLP, based in Mumbai. The bus was in good shape inside - had terrible damage to the exteriors. The driving style of the first driver was terrible - rash cuts, hard braking and last minute overtakes - it was scary to say the least. The second driver appeared to be good. The conductor was soft spoken and quite well behaved. Water bottles were not provided - blankets were available though. The ride time, at 13 hours and 15 minutes, was decent. The last 400 kilometres from Palakkad to Madiwala in done in a little over 6 hours. Overall, the experience was mixed. 

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Worked.
Entertainment: Available, Songs played.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 3/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 3/5 (One driver was terribly rash)
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4.9/5

Overall: 4/5

Pros: Value for money, punctual
Cons: Driving - it was scary!

Will I take this service again? Maybe. Its not a very bad option - needs better drivers though.

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