Chennai Quickie: Back to Bengaluru on TAT 'Celeste'!

I had searched for my return ticket the previous evening itself. I wanted a sleeper bus, and looked at almost all options for that, departing from Chennai after 1230hrs - on the hope I would complete my work in Chennai by that time. Curiously, almost all the buses were filling up quite soon. I wasn't sure I'd finish my work by noon - and not wanting to take chances, I decided to book on the first departure that evening. As it should happen, the buses I was targeting were sold out or had berths I wouldn't fancy traveling in. After looking at almost all the options, I finally booked a single lower berth in the Thirumal Alaghu Travels Volvo B11R 'Celeste' Sleeper coach.

November 25, 2019:
My work at the university completed earlier than I had anticipated. I looked for options to rebook - even if that meant losing some money as cancellation fee. I wasn't able to find better options - either seats weren't available, or had seats that I wasn't interested in! I finally decided to stick to my original option itself. I had over 4 hours to spend before my bus, and I spent most of my time spotting, and some time having a leisurely lunch. I somehow managed to spend time - but the head did drain out all the energy I had, and I badly wanted to rest as the departure time of my bus came closer.

Interestingly, about 30 minutes before the scheduled departure of my bus - I received a call from the crew of my bus, who updated that the boarding point would be 'Dhanapal parking' and not the TAT Office inside the bus station as listed on the ticket - while I knew that the bus would depart from Dhanapal parking, the call was made well in advance so that people who were coming in from other places could easily update their information and get directly to the new boarding point. I really appreciate this thought process. I was at the 'new' boarding point well in advance - with more than 15 minutes to go for the departure. I got into the bus soon after I reached there - the driver checked my seat number and marked me present on the tablet computer he was carrying.
The bus: KA-51-AC-3133

The bus is among the first few Celeste sleepers built by Prakash Bus Corporation and hence featured a fairly aged interiors. The interiors were well kept - the berths were clean, and the bed spread smelled fresh. Blankets were provided in every berth - the berth was long enough and comfortable. Seperate pillows weren't provided - had to make do with the pillow-like elevation on the berth. Individual LED screens were available - but they weren't used throughout the journey. Boarding was a little slow - we were able to complete boarding and start moving by 1616hrs - a minute behind schedule. We quickly exited the Koyambedu mess, and got to Maduravoyal by 1631hrs, picked passengers and rushed towards Poonamallee. We were ahead of the traffic, probably, and could get to Poonamallee by 1647hrs (Saveetha Dental College). We got to Poonamalle bypass by 1654hrs, finished all pick-ups and started off by 1655hrs.

I was quite tired - sleeplessness the previous night, and the heat and exhaustion from the day drained out all the energy I had - I dozed off soon after Poonamallee. The driving style was quite good - very stable. I slept for an hour or so - waking up just as we got to Ranipet toll. The bus stopped after the toll for a while on a passenger's request to use the restroom. We started off again at 1828hrs. I kept  dozing off time and again - we picked a couple of passengers from Vellore, and continued our run (1859hrs). I was getting a little hungry by now - the break point was still fairly away. The driver was maintaining steady pace throughout - and he did not seem to exceed 80kmph at any point of time.  We rolled in to Hotel Sai Akshayam, near Vaniyambadi, at 1955hrs - the crew announced a 15 minute break. I was quite hungry, and headed in to have some food.

There were two other buses, and the restaurant seemed to have a shortage of bearers - it took a while for all patrons to be attended. While I was having my food, the other two buses slowly departed. Another bus joined us a little before we started. We finally started from there at 2026hrs - a 31 minute long break. The driver continued taking it slow, but really steady. The driving style was really sleep friendly - I tuned in to some movie on my phone for the rest of the time. We got to Hosur by around 2147hrs - a little bit of traffic slowed down our progress after Hosur. We got to Attibele soon, but the traffic at the toll gate delayed us by about 10 minutes - we left the toll gate at 2203hrs.

The driver picked some pace after Attibele - he had to return back to Chennai about an hour later, and he had to make up some time. We got to Electronic city toll gate by 2218hrs, and then took the elevated highway and got to Silk Board by 2228hrs - ending another good journey with TAT.

Remarks: The bus, KA-51-AC-3133, had clocked about 3.23 Lakh kilometres. The bus was kept in good shape. There were a bit of rattles from the interiors - but that seemed to be an issue with the body builder than maintenance. The crew were great - unlike my previous experience with TAT, the attendant was very friendly and forthcoming. The cleanliness and upkeep of the interiors need special mention. The berth was comfortable as well. The driving style was very sleep friendly - sleeper buses need to take it slower, and the driver just did that. Despite keeping lower speeds, we managed to cover the distance from Koyambedu to Silk Board in 6h12m including a 31 minute break, which was fabulous. A good one with TAT!

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: No
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: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

Pros: Comfortable, Quick, VFM
Cons: A pillow needed!

Will I take this service again? Absolutely!

Comments

Arun said…
Sai akshayam though a pretty clean and best place (early morning services of RKK and Asian stop there for breakfast) is very under staffed!! Every time I had been there I found that the staff there struggle to handle to customers if it is more than one bus crowd. I did give my feedback to the owner couple of times, but they somehow try to convince me that it was one odd day with crowd and usually no more than one bus halts there. Same story happens in the evenings when National, RKK and Asian stop there around 630pm

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