Thrissur to Bengaluru: KSRTC Ambaari Dream Class Volvo Sleeper!

Traveling post-Christmas is always an expensive affair. I had a train ticket for travel on Christmas day itself, but changes in plans made be cancel the ticket and reschedule the journey by road. Now, buses are often the priciest option available - I had to stick to state buses to save on some money. I looked at the sole sleeper option from Thrissur, and found it didn't have 'better' seats - I booked a seat on an Airavat Club Class. As the date for my journey kept coming closer, a great new broke in - KSRTC (Karnataka) was introducing a new Ambaari Dream Class service from Thrissur to Bengaluru - this was perhaps the best news I heard. I waited for the reservations to open, and I certainly was the first to book a ticket on the first ever trip of the Ambaari Dream Class service from Thrissur to Bengaluru. I cancelled the other ticket I had, in the meantime. Ambaari Dream Class is KSRTC's premium sleeper offering! This new fleet of multi-axle Volvo sleeper buses feature premium interiors and are presently the highest class of offering by KSRTC. This was to be my first travel by this class of buses.

Bus enthusiasts always take craziness to the next level - I was so desperate and curious to see 'my' bus that I headed off to Thrissur at 0500hrs in the morning to see 'my' bus. I had to wait for almost an hour for the day to break in, while I walked from the KSRTC bus station (where I had gotten off in the morning) to Sakthan Nagar (where the bus would be parked). Thrissur was celebrating a month long shopping festival, and most roads in the city were lit and decorated. The bus had arrived much before day break, and was already parked at their parking ground. It was all beautifully decorated and was parked at the ground like a queen - her majesty looked resplendent and I had a tough time taking my eyes off the beast! I had to return home soon later, since I had a long day ahead, doing a lot of work before I returned to Bangalore later in the evening.

December 27, 2019:
Some unfortunate mixups in the evening ended up delaying my departure from home. My brother dropped me at the bus station in Kodungallur by 1840hrs - there was sufficient time to get to Thrissur, and be on time for the 2014hrs departure of my bus to Bengaluru. I got a bus immediately as well, and the driver was fast from the word go. I was kinda sure I'd be in Thrissur by 2000hrs. The bus slowed down as we neared Thrissur. Traffic was on the higher side, and we ended up having to crawl for quite some distance. Traffic restrictions in the city due to the shopping festival meant the bus was diverted much before the KSRTC bus station, and headed straight towards the Sakthan Nagar bus station. I got off at the Sakthan Nagar bus station a little past 2000hrs. By now the conductor had called me up and enquired about my whereabouts - he asked me to rush up since the bus was getting 'late' (we still had close to 10 minutes to go for scheduled departure time).
The bus - KA-57-F-3953, at Thrissur..

I rushed into an autorickshaw soon after getting off the bus - the driver suggested that the traffic scene was quite bad, and he said he'll try his best. He was right - traffic was terrible. He took a smaller road somewhere, avoided some traffic and got to the KSRTC bus station by 2013hrs - one minute to go for the departure of my bus. I had three pieces of baggage - grabbed all of them, and ran into the bus station. The conductor called up again - I didn't have a free hand to answer the call, and I decided to concentrate on running instead! The driver spotted me running towards the bus - he quickly collected my baggage, tagged them and placed them in the boot. He marked my attendance, and requested that I at least answer the phone call - I couldn't explain that I hadn't had a free hand to pick the phone! I was inside the bus by around 2017hrs - we were waiting for another passenger to turn up. We finally started off from the KSRTC bus station at 2020hrs - six minutes behind schedule.

The bus crawled out of the bus station - and got into traffic soon later. We had to crawl through terrible traffic for a while - even passing through a roundabout that I thought the bus wouldn't be able to get through. The driver had some sheer talent - he went through the tight turn with ease. Traffic eased up a bit as we slowly exited the city. The driver showed no signs of speeding up - it was a brand new bus, and he was taking it slow. We got into terrible traffic as we neared Kuthiran - it was terrible traffic there. I was engrossed in a movie on my phone that I did not really notice the progress. It took quite a lot of time to get past the small stretch of ghat road at Kuthiran pass. We pulled in for dinner at Hotel Toll Gate, near the yet-to-be-opened toll gate near Vadakkencherry (2224hrs) - the bus took 2h04m to travel a distance of 35 kilometres! I managed to grab some food quickly, and returned to the bus soon later. The crew also finished their dinner quite soon, and we started off at 2250hrs.

The bus didn't pick pace even after the break, or even after losing more than an hour in traffic. I continued watching the movie on my phone as we made 'not-so-swift' progress towards Palakkad. We got to Palakkad bus station by 2324hrs - I was quite curious to see how the bus gets into the bus station - he didn't get into the bus station, but stopped on the road near the exit of the bus station. We started off at 2327hrs after passenger pick-up. The bus was sold out actually. I slept quite well after Palakkad - woke up briefly once in a while. Although a pillow wasn't provided, the inbuilt pillow was sufficiently tall enough to give great comfort. A blanket and a bedsheet was also provided - I didn't use the blanket initially, and felt quite comfortable in the bedsheet itself. I pulled over the blanket sometime during the night.
Another look at the bus..

I woke up hearing the conductor calling out the Electronic City bus stop - the time was 0620hrs. Almost two hours behind schedule! The bus took the elevated highway, and got to Silk Board by 0635hrs - dropped passengers and stared off at 0637hrs. The next stop was at St. Johns Hospital - 0643hrs. Road works around Dairy Circle meant we took the road via Adugodi. I was really hopeful that the crew would head to Majestic via Richmond - but the driver took a left at Anepalya, and headed straight towards Shantinagar instead! I was sure they'd close the trip there, and not carry on till Majestic - I was right as the conductor started fumbling for a reply when I asked if the bus would got to Majestic. I didn't want to risk - book a cab soon later, and got one even as the bus was just entering the Shantinagar bus station (0709hrs) - two hours and 55 minutes behind schedule! 10 hours and 49 minutes to cover a distance of a little over 480kilometres! I would discount 1 hour from this to the traffic block - even then over 9 hours is too much. I would probably give the benefit of doubt, that the crew might have taken it slow since it was a brand new bus!

Remarks: The bus, KA-57-F-3953, of Bengaluru-2 depot was fresh out of the factory floor - she did have about 5500 kilometres on the clock. The bus still smelled fresh - the interiors felt premium and plush. The berth was sufficiently wide - I felt the length issue in this bus as well. The AC blower was set was low speeds - the berth was getting cool, but not too cold. The driving style was sleep friendly - but I felt the driver could've got to Bengaluru atleast an hour earlier if they had maintained higher pace. Google Maps tracking also showed a 20 minute halt somewhere near Salem - the crew perhaps had taken a break somewhere, despite the delay! I would surely give the service another try before getting to a conclusion about the service. 

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

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 2.5/5 [Close to 3 hours late]

Overall: 3.5/5

Pros: Cheap option in the route, sleep friendly driving
Cons: Absolute lack of time sense

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

Comments

Manish Jha said…
We were actually anticipating the pics of the inside of this latest offering by ksrtc
Parasakthi said…
Were any Kind of speed restriction device must have been placed on the bus.
rahulvijayev said…
2 hours of delay is totally unacceptable if they had the option to recover it. They should try to maintain slightly higher speeds (even a constant 80 would do) to recover the lost time. I had a journey from Ernakulam to Chandapura in KSRTC Volvo RS784 couple of days back. We were almost 1.5 hours delayed at Palakkad, but the crew did a great job to recover a lot of time and reached Hosur at around 4.45am which is just 15 minutes late from the scheduled timing. I was awake for most part of the journey and never felt that the driving was reckless or the bus was overspeeding.
Binai K Sankar said…
@ManishJha.. sorry. Boarding was almost complete as I got into the bus - couldn't click pix with people inside. I'd do a walk in video the next time I travel!

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