Bengaluru to Chennai: Thirumal Alaghu Travels Volvo Celeste Sleeper

I've been wanting to go to Chennai since quite some time, but didn't have any reason to do that. A reason to go to Chennai came in the form of an official appointment. Two of my colleagues were also traveling with me. They had a single requirement - a Sleeper bus was preferred. Based on our requirement, we had to travel post-noon the previous day of our appointment. We chose to take a bus that goes to Koyambedu - this removed a few operators from the list. We refined the search further, and I stumbled upon Thirumal Alaghu Travels (TAT) while searching for options. A Volvo Multi-axle 'Celeste' Sleeper was on offer at fairly low fares - the pick-up and drop times suited us to the T as well.

August 15, 2019:
Independence day is always busy for an academician. It was no different for me either. The morning half went in College - with hoisting of the tri-colour, followed by cultural events. The bag I was to carry with me was delivered only after I returned from office - it took me some time later to get acquainted with the bag, before I got packing for the next 4 days of travel I had ahead. I ended up with a rucksack and a laptop back-pack with me. Armed with all the bags, I set off from home by around 1300hrs - for a bus departing at 1600hrs. The first stop was at the neighborhood restaurant for lunch, and then to the bus stop to take a bus to the metro station. Being a holiday, the buses and the metro was heavily crowded. I did manage to secure a seat, but the train was badly crowded. The crowd continued till we got to Lalbagh - where the train literally emptied! I had to wait for a while at Jayanagar for the other colleagues to reach. We took a cab from there to Madiwala.

We were at Madiwala by 1530hrs - so we spent some time at a nearby restaurant (as one of my colleagues hadn't taken lunch) - and then packed some snacks from a shop nearby before getting into our bus. The bus was brought to Madiwala by 1545hrs - 30 minutes before departure. Thirumal Alaghu didn't have an office or an agent at this place - so people didn't have an option to wait. The attendant wasn't very polite either - he was high on his pitch and spoke quite rudely on phone. The driver was very soft spoken and polite - he checked our seat numbers and marked us present on a tablet computer that he was carrying. Soon after that, I received a message on the phone welcoming us to the bus! That was neat.
The bus (Pic from archives)

The bus was left on - the AC was running, and hence waiting inside the bus was comfortable. The interiors were really good - it was basic with no fancy fittings or fancy lights, but was appropriate and very comfortable. It was raining outside and the attendant kept shouting at passengers who were boarding the bus with wet dresses. Not the best way to speak to passengers - IMO. He kept irritating most passengers by the way he spoke. The bus started off at 1614hrs - a minute before time. The road ahead wasn't very crowded - may be due to the fact that it was a holiday, and a long weekend as well! The road was so deserted that we could get to Madiwala police station by 1629hrs - 15 minutes for this distance is surely a record (Considering that the bus went through water tank & market).

Passengers got in quick, and we started off at 1630hrs. We lost some time at Silkboard waiting for some passengers to turn up (the bus was a little early) - we got moving at 1636hrs. We took the elevated highway and rushed towards Electronic City. There was some traffic block at the toll gate - that cost almost 10 minutes! We picked a few more passengers after the toll gate (1653hrs) and continued our journey to Chennai. A few more passengers joined at Attibele toll (1721hrs). The next pick-up was at Hosur (1724hrs). The bus was almost full by now. The driver let the beast loose and maintained fairly good pace on the highway for the rest of the distance. The driving style was composed - no rash overtakes or sharp cuts. I was loving the way the bus was being driven.

The bus pulled into Hotel Sai Ananda Bhavan near Krishnagiri for a quick break at 1805hrs. The attendant announced a quick break and disappeared - the security guard at the hotel got into the bus and made more announcements. I wanted to have some light snack and we got off the bus. We bought a bottle of water and returned to the bus - the attendant now making a scene for the bus getting delayed because of 'us' - a few more passengers were still inside the bus, and the crew were actually filling up water in the tank in the bus (for washing), and there was no way he could depart for the next 5 minutes - but the attendant made it a point to create a scene. The same fellow told me that they'd give water bottles - but nothing was given! This fellow was surely getting on my nerves. I kept low, and returned to the bus. We got moving by 1832hrs.

A movie was played soon after the bus started. It had got dark outside and there was no entertainment anyways. Each berth had a TV (shared between two berths for the double berths) on which the movie was played. Passengers had the option to turn off the speakers or the TV if they weren't interested. A fairly recent tamil movie was played - it kept me engrossed for the rest of the time, till the player acted up and the movie froze. We got to Vellore by 2000hrs - the bus stopped here for a long time, for reasons unknown - and we departed only at 2009hrs. The bus stopped at Kanchipuram bypass to drop passengers (2109hrs) on the way. There were more stops to drop passengers as we neared Chennai - Poonamalle (2157hrs) and Maduravoyal (2212hrs) to name a few. As the bus neared Koyambedu, the arrogant attendant walks in and announces something about the bus stopping next only at the bus station. The driver did stop at Rohini to drop passengers. We were finally dropped outside the Koyambedu mofussil bus terminus (CMBT), near the arrivals gate, at 2225hrs - exactly at the scheduled arrival time.

Remarks: The bus, KA-51-AC-3124, had about 3.16 Lakh kilometres on the odo. She was fairly well kept - no major damages or scars on the body. The interiors were basic - but really well kept. The interiors were clean, and the berth was very comfortable. I missed having a pillow though - a proper sized blanket was provided, though. A very strong fragrance air-freshener was used inside the bus - this could've been avoided. The driving was awesome - he departed perfectly on time and arrived absolutely on time. The ride was very comfortable and peaceful. The attendant badly needs some soft skills training and needs to be taught how to speak to passengers though. Overall a good journey - a nice option on the route, worth being considered.

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

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 2.5/5 (5/5 for the driver, and may be 1/5 for the attendant)
Punctuality: 5/5

Overall: 3.5/5 (would give it a 5/5 if not for the attendant)

Pros: Good bus, efficient, comfortable, Value for money
Cons: the attendant!

Will I take this service again? Will surely give them another chance!

Comments

Arun said…
Guess you were lucky to travel by TAT in ur first attempt!! This happens to be the line celeste on the bangalore chennai route (recently ambari dream class has been brought in for MYS-CHE). I somehow can't redo rid of the jinx that keeps me away from TAT. Twice when I was determined to travel by TAT, the pairing bus met with accidents and the service was cancelled. For whatever reasons, the pair had met with multiple accidents ever since introduction (one of colleague was unfortunate to be the bus). For a good number of days, only one of 4th buses would be operational and my luck would be that it would operate on the opposite direction.

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