MSRTC 'Shivneri' Volvo B7R: To Gateway of India, from Pune!

November 15, 2019:
After getting off the Karnataka Sampark Kranti Express (read here), we headed straight to the food court. After leaving the luggage there, in custody of my other colleagues, I headed to the ticket counter to get tickets for the connecting train to Chinchwad, where our accommodation was booked. After a little pushing around, and acrobatics, we got into a Lonavla bound Local train - sitting around the window seat, as the train hurried towards Chinchwad, somebody in the group asked the question -"What about heading to the Gateway of India?" (I think it was me, well, could be!) I looked at possible trains - and in fact, this plan actually was born after I spotted a train from Chinchwad to Panvel on a third party train tracking app.

All the members of our contingent approved the plan to head to Mumbai - to see the Gateway of India! We decided to book a ticket on the train - the IRCTC website didn't list the train for some reason. After a bit of searching around, I realised that the train was route diverted, and wouldn't come to Chinchwad or go to Mumbai (Panvel)! While walking from the railway station to the hotel where we were booked, I spotted a Mumbai bound MSRTC Volvo. We now decided to look for buses as an option - our decision to go to Mumbai was final! I looked at the MSRTC website, and found buses via Chinchwad, to Mumbai (Dadar) listed at intervals of 30 minutes. After some quick discussion, we decided to book the next available bus - the one we booked on had a 1300hrs departure from Pune station.

After a quick lunch, we headed to the Chinchwad station MSRTC boarding point - the officer there had a look at our ticket and said the bus is expected to be about 45 minutes late, arriving around 1400hrs only! I was like - what! The delay would throw a spanner into our plans - we'd end up at the Gateway once the sun has set! Not something we wanted - but then, we had no options. Sometime past 1315hrs, a bus to Dadar turned up. This was the bus we should've actually taken - we missed booking on this by a few minutes (the reservation closed by the time I hit the 'Book' button). Soon after boarding for the bus completed, the officer at the bus stop called us, and asked if we'd like to take this bus. I asked him if our tickets were valid for this one - he replied in affirmative, but said we'd not get the seats were reserved for, but we could take seats elsewhere in the bus! We all agreed, thanked him and got on to the bus. He noted down our booking number from the ticket, made a note on the trip sheet and let us travel by the bus!
The bus : MH-06-S-9366 of Parel Depot

The bus started off at 1321hrs. The bus looked tired - it surely had seen better days. The interiors were all dusty - we could feel the dust in the air inside the bus. The seat-back magazine pouches were mostly broken, so were the water bottle holders. The mobile charging point was dead, as well. The AC was working in good shape - thankfully. We rolled in to Nigdi pick-up point now (1327hrs) - quickly finished pick-up and got moving towards Mumbai soon later (1328hrs). We rushed through Dehu road, and joined the Mumbai Expressway soon. The driver mostly kept to the middle lane, going to the overtake lane once in a while. The ride was a little boring - there was no entertainment in the bus.

The driving style was mature - no hard overtakes or chases. He just maintained pace, and remained in one lane for most of the time. The curves were taken a little fast though - there was a lot of body roll as we went through curves. The bus exited the expressway, and headed to the NH4 Food plaza - getting there by around 1416hrs - the driver announced a 15 minute break and headed out. I clicked some pics, used the restroom, and remained outside the bus till the driver returned. The bus started off again at 1433hrs - a 17 minute break! I quickly check the traffic status on the stretch from Vashi to Dadar - traffic was on the higher side (as expected), and we didn't want to risk taking the bus all the way to Dadar, and getting delayed.

After a bit of searching around, we zeroed in on a plan to alight at Kharghar, and then take the Local train to Mumbai CSMT. The bus exited the expressway, and stopped at Kalamboli to drop a passenger (1520hrs). The driver called out for passengers alighting at Kharghar soon later - I headed to him, and requested him to drop us at Kharghar station instead - he obliged, and we were dropped at the Kharghar station bus stop, at around 1530hrs. Finding the way to the railway station from the bus stop was a task in itself. We had to walk a little, and even jump down a pavement to reach the station. We got a train from there - and even managed seats together - and got to Mumbai CSMT a little past 1700hrs.

Remarks: The bus, MH-06-S-9366, homed at Mumbai Division's Parel depot had about 8.6 Lakh kilometres on the clock. The bus had plenty of bruises - the interiors were dusty and dirty. It looked like they've never removed dust ever since the bus came to the road. The amenities were broken - seat back pockets, bottle holders, everything around. The best thing about the ride was the driver - perfect! The speed and driving style was stable - we were comfortable on our seats except at the curves around Khandala! The run from Chinchwad to Kharghar took about 2h09m - perfect time!

Blanket: No
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Didn't work!
Entertainment: Not Available.

Maintenance: 3/5
Cleanliness: 2/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5 [Based on timings - no displayed schedule, as such]

Overall: 3.5/5

Pros: Plenty of trips, Good driving
Cons: Buses aren't great, not exactly Value for money!

Will I take this service again? There are so many trips, that you wouldn't have to look at other options!