Bengaluru to Chennai: KSRTC Airavat Club Class via Chittoor

I was in quandary as I looked at tickets for Chennai from Bengaluru. I look at the plethora of options that listed on redbus - but the characteristic among them was that the fares remained high. I didn't want to pay a 4 digit sum for the small distance - quite out of curiosity, I headed to the KSRTC website and found very decent fares listed. I found this interesting option via Chittoor - I wanted to try this route, and this was the opportunity for me. I booked a window seat on the first row to enjoy the route as well!

August 30, 2019:
I had to leave office early for this bus - I took a taxi directly from office to Shantinagar bus station. I headed first to the restaurant nearby to have lunch. My bus entered the bus station as I was finishing my lunch (mine was the only departure at the time, thereby making it easy to understand that it was my bus). I received a message with the bus & crew details as I walked from the restaurant to the departure bay. A fairly old bus was doing the honours that day - boarding had already begun (departure was less than 5 minutes away). The driver quickly checked tickets and helped passengers with their baggage, as the conductor was busy getting departure papers from the office.

There was no sign of departure even as the clock ticked past 1300hrs (the scheduled departure time) - passengers were yet to turn up and the crew were busy calling them and following up.We got moving at 1318hrs finally - the bus turned towards Brigade road and set course towards Old Madras Road. Traffic was on the higher side - it was a Friday afternoon. Traffic was really bad as we got on to MG road, and things got worse as we neared Ulsoor. It got a little better after Ulsoor - some slow down near SV Road Metro Station though. We got to Krishnarajapuram, and stopped right after the flyover, at 1407hrs - almost an hour to get here itself. We departed at 1410hrs. The next stop was near the Ganesha temple (1414hrs) - this stop was a little long as quite a few passengers hadn't turned up. The bus had to keep inching forward time and again since the cops kept asking the driver to move forward. We finally departed at 1423hrs.
The bus: KA-01-F-9161 

The crew had to stop for lunch at a particular hotel past Hoskote - both the crew members were not regulars on the route, and they had no clue where the hotel was! The driver slowed down after Hoskote toll gate (another driver had informed him that the hotel was after the toll gate) and was on the look out for the hotel. He slowed down to check every time he saw a hotel - we finally located the hotel at 1448hrs, and pulled in for a lunch break - at Hotel Nandi Grand past Hoskote. I used the break to have a stroll, and stocked up some biscuits. We departed from the hotel at 1514hrs. The conductor headed to the last row to sleep soon afterwards.

The road ahead had low traffic, and great roads. The driver was of the opinion that this would be the best route once road works in the entire stretch was over - its almost 30 kilometres shorter than via Chennai, had lesser traffic and could surely mean shorter running time. I was quite tired and dozed off for a while. I had tuned in to some movie for the time in between. Although traffic on the road was on the lower side, there were plenty of vehicles, especially tractors and two-wheelers, driving on the wrong side on the highway - the driver had to be really careful while overtaking for the fear of these dumb wits.

The excellent roads finished as we turned off the highway towards Chittoor town, and further towards Vellore. The wide four laned concrete roads were replaced with one-and-a-half laned broken roads - they were full of potholes. There were plenty of diversions as well - road works (widening and concreting) were progressing at good pace, though. The driver was right - once the works are completed, this route would be bliss! Things were terrible at places. The road got better once we passed into Tamil Nadu. The road was wider - but passed through quite crowded places. There was a lot of traffic as we got to Ranipet, and it got worse in Walajah.

The crew changed at Walajah toll gate - the conductor took over now, and the driver headed to rest. Meanwhile, the driver informed the conductor to stop at a particular hotel near Kanchipuram for tea break. The conductor (Driver-cum-conductor) replied in affirmative. Traffic was on the higher side and it did hamper our progress. I was a little worriTed about the loss of time if the bus took another break - but there were families and elderly people in the bus who might require that break. Meanwhile, the guy at the wheel was fast. He maintained good pace, and did some beautiful overtakes. While maintaining pace, we passed a hotel - that sounded like the name the driver had informed him! Yes - we missed the hotel. The driver was on the look out for another place to stop now.

We stopped at Kanchipuram bypass (1917hrs) to drop passengers. A few passengers came and checked with the crew if we'd stop for a break - the driver replied he'll stop in sometime. He continued scouting for hotels (he hadn't realised that we had missed the hotel though) as we progressed towards Chennai. Traffic got terrible as we neared Chennai. Sriperumbudur highway was a mess - there was a long traffic block before the town. We got to Sriperumbudur by 1953hrs - dropped passengers and continued. Every toll gate, and every traffic signal was jammed. We stopped after Sriperumbudur toll gate for a quick break (2002hrs) - in the meantime, a few passengers got into a verbal fight with the crew. The crew maintained their calm and patiently replied saying they were new on the route, and they didn't know where to stop.

We started off from there at 2015hrs. The conductor was still at the wheels. Traffic was really terrible as we neared Chennai. Things got worse as we neared Poonamalle - we managed to get to the Poonamalle bypass stop by 2052hrs. Traffic was at its worst after Poonamalle. Maduravoyal was a mess, and it got worse as we neared Koyambedu. We were stuck for a lot of time - the bus was mostly stationary for most of the time. It was down to a crawl after Maduravoyal and came to a standstill as we reached Rohini theatre. The crew were confused if they should take a right and go through the market or head towards the flyover - they headed to the flyover for some vague reason. The scene there was horrible. After all the crawling, the bus the CMBT (Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus) Arch at 2236hrs - over two hours behind schedule! The last 15 kilometers from Poonamalle to Koyambedu took about an hour and 4 minutes!!

Remarks: The bus, KA-01-F-9161 of Bengaluru-4 depot had about 14.4 Lakh kilometres on the clock. The bus was kept in great shape - really well maintained even for that age (about 9 years old). The crew were great - they kept cool even as some passengers shouted at them for the delay in stopping for the tea break - they even came later and shouted for the bus getting delayed (they were seeing that the bus was stuck in traffic - but had the audacity to shout at the crew for 'delaying' the bus). I really felt bad for the crew - they tried their best not to delay the bus, but the traffic block was not at their control. There was a delay at departure - plus traffic in Bengaluru. Road works between Chittoor and Tamil Nadu border also did contribute a little to the delay. Overall the journey was good - except that the traffic block at Chennai made me quite tired! 

Amenities:
Blanket: No
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, worked.
Entertainment: Available, Not used.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 2.5/5 [Delay due to traffic block]

Overall: 3.5/5

Pros: Good bus, efficient, comfortable, value for money!
Cons: Bad road after Chittoor - a little too bad for comfort [Not a cons of the operator]

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

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