Bengaluru to Thrissur: Kerala SRTC Garuda King Class Volvo B9R

Diwali Weekend. I was sure the rush would be the highest. I decided to play it safe and book my ticket the day the reservation opened - I missed the opening day narrowly, and remembered it only the next morning. I booked on the Kerala RTC Garuda King Class Volvo B9R service to Ernakulam - the best among the Kerala RTC services that operate out of Bangalore towards Central and South Kerala. I had looked at the options from Karnataka RTC as well before I did this booking - the reason for this booking was that the Kerala bus generally reaches quite early in the morning - and I had to be at my home quite early in the morning to attend a wedding later in the day.

Circumstances changed as the day for journey came closer - roads turned pathetic in Kerala following torrential rains, long traffic snarls at the infamous Kuthiran pass became the order of the day. I did not want to be too late for the wedding, and searched for alternatives. Trains were my call - but all of them had long waiting lists. I looked at some afternoon departures from Bengaluru - needless to say, shockingly, they were sold out as well. I tried the tatkal option - decided to take the risk, and tried booking through the IRCTC app a day before my journey - I succeeded to log in right before the server jammed up, and managed to get through the booking page - I received my ticket at 1003hrs (three minutes after booking opened) - all the 100 odd seats were sold off, and I managed to get a WL43 ticket! I took a decision to wait and watch - left the ticket as it is until that evening, when the ticket had fallen down to WL19. Changes in circumstances again - guests in the office next day meant it would be really difficult for me to get to the railway station in time for the train I had booked on, and opted to cancel my ticket instead, and retain my bus booking.

October 25, 2019:
Guests in the office that day kept me occupied - and it was busy day until late afternoon. Things turned lighter a little past lunch time - managed to finish my work for the day soon later, and left the office an hour earlier than the regular check-out time. This helped me finish packing my bag and also get fresh before I commenced my journey to Thrissur. Getting transportation to reach the bus station was getting difficult - peak evening hours,plus a fairy heavy downpour added to my misery. After fiddling around the two big cab aggregator apps, I managed to get a taxi on one of them - the driver took his time to get to my place. Wading through traffic, he managed to get to my boarding point - the deserted, Basaveshwara Bus Station (Peenya) by around 1745hrs.
The bus (Archives)

The bus was being prepared by the crew - it was brought to the departure bay by around 1800hrs - three other Kerala RTC buses were lined up there already. The bus station is completely deserted now - all the shops have shut down, and there were no passengers except for the Kerala bound departures. Boarding started soon after the crew got their boarding chart - the conductor quickly checked with passengers who hadn't boarded - we waited until 1815hrs for one passenger - the conductor wasn't able to connect to this passenger due to some network issues. Although the bus started off from the bus station exactly at 1815hrs - we waited outside on the road for some more time as the office staff tried connecting to the passenger. The passenger called the conductor a little later, and confirmed that he would board at a later point - we got moving at 1822hrs.

It was getting dark - rain seemed imminent. The conductor was quickly calling up passengers who were to board at Bommanhalli and Electronic City - places that were over 2 hours away! He confirmed that they were travelling, their boarding point and added a warning that we might be late due to traffic. In the mean time, the bus crawled through the outer ring road - traffic thickened as we neared Mysore road, and we came to a standstill after Deepanjali nagar. It took quite a while before we could reach the satellite bus station - meanwhile, the conductor called up passengers who had to board here, and made sure they were available, so that we could, perhaps, depart earlier and thereby neutralise the effect of traffic. We got to the bus station (Mysore Road Satellite bus station) at 1927hrs - managed to find an empty bay and quickly began boarding.

Passengers who were already on board were advised to use the restrooms - since the dinner halt was still away. I picked up some snacks and returned to the bus soon later. We started off from the bus station at 1950hrs - 10 minutes early. The bus was completely reserved - and all reserved passengers were already on board - therefore, an early departure was permitted. It took about 2 minutes to pull out of the platform - it was traffic all the way as we started off. I started watching a movie on my phone as we got back to the main road. We managed to get to Shantinagar by 2040hrs - acceptable running time considering evening traffic. Boarding took a while - we started off at 2050hrs. Traffic flowed fast till we reached NIMHANS - traffic came to a complete standstill on the dairy circle flyover - here began our crawl.

We crawled our way to Christ University bus stop - picked passengers, and continued crawling (2120hrs). The traffic was terrible - it took a long time to get to Madiwala from there. We got to St. John's hospital by 2212hrs - almost an hour to get there from Christ, a distance of just a kilometre and a half! It took us time to find the passengers, get them on board and start - starting off at 2217hrs. The bus proceeded quite fast till we turned towards Madiwala market - coming to a complete standstill again! My movie finished in the mean time - lights in the cabin were turned off already. We passed Madiwala police station at 2318hrs - an hour just to travel 2.5kms! The conductor's mobile was ringing continuously - he had arranged all passengers who were to board at Bommanahalli to board at Roopena Agrahara (the starting point of the elevated highway) - we got there by 2322hrs - quickly picked passengers and rushed towards Electronic City. I was half asleep by now - we got to Electronic City toll gate by 2337hrs.

News about terrible traffic snarl around Attibele toll gate was pouring in already - and I was mentally prepared for a delayed arrival at Thrissur. I slept soon after we left Electronic city. I had a nice long sleep, until the crew woke up passengers - announcing that we had reached our dinner halt - the clock read 0100hrs! I was groggy - wanted to use the restroom, and got off the bus. I hadn't taken by dinner - had a quick dinner and returned to the bus soon later. The crew stocked up tea as they prepared for a non-stop run overnight. We started off at 0122hrs - I overheard the crew that they had to enter Coimbatore drop a passenger (and pick one). I vaguely remember the bus stopped at Coimbatore - I did not notice the time though. I woke up a little past 0615hrs - as I received a call from home enquiring my whereabouts. We were just past Walayar then. The bus reached Palakkad at 0643hrs - the crew had a sense of urgency, as they went about their work quickly here. Everybody in the bus eagerly looked on to see whether the bus would take the dreaded Kuthiran route, or go via Ottapalam.

The Kuthiran route showed a 16 minute delay - but that was not dependable. We started off from the bus station at 0651hrs - the bus turned left - audible sighs of relief were everywhere. We had turned towards Ottapalam - Although a longer route, its reliable and predictable. The driver picked pace soon after we left town limits - it began raining a little later. The road is windy - making for an unsettled ride. The driver was quite fast - he was pushing the bus to make up some time. Passengers were dropped on the way. Rain got heavier as we neared Thrissur - but it took a short break as we entered Thrissur town. I got off near Sakthan nagar bus station at 0837hrs - over 4 hours behind scheduled arrival time, and about 3 hours behind normal arrival time.

Remarks: The bus, KL-15-A-287 (RS789) of Ernakulam depot had clocked about 11.99 Lakh Kilometres - the maintenance is a little behind its pairing bus. There was quite a bit of rattles from the rear suspension - but was otherwise in great shape. The bus is getting old - and that is a cause for concern. But, Volvo does prove its reliability time and again! The crew were great - the service is a great example of how great crew can make a service successful. Despite all the limitations Kerala RTC has, this service has been kept really well, and the buses are in better shape than all the other buses of Kerala RTC. As I have always maintained, the timings set for this service is unachievable, and delays upto an hour (as compared to the scheduled displayed on their website) are normal. The delay on this day was understandable - we lost close to three hours in Bengaluru itself - and that delay continued throughout. Overall a great experience with the crew - minus the delay, though.

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Worked throughout.
Entertainment: Available - not used.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 4.5/5 [Rattles]
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 3/5 [Delays due to reasons beyond crew control]

Overall: 4/5

Pros: Great Service, Excellent crew.
Cons: Ageing bus

Will I take this service again? Absolutely - the age of the bus is a concern though.

Comments

rahulvijayev said…
1815hrs Peenya
2337hrs Electronic City
Five and a half hours to travel from one end in Bangalore to another...
Words isn't enough to explain what is the situation related to traffic in Bangalore!!

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