Shirdi to Mumbai: MSRTC Shivshahi AC Seater

Getting back to Bengaluru from Shirdi is always a challenge - especially if you need to get back in time for work on a Monday morning! Direct buses were kinda ruled out early in the search process for two reasons - one, private operators had jacked up their fares; two, KSRTC was, then, operating a semi-sleeper bus. I did book a seat on KSRTC to start with, but developed cold feet soon later as I struggled to fathom how'd I adjust to this long distance (I have done longer distances in the past - but with me growing older, it seemed quite a task). I casually looked at OTAs to see if there were cheaper airfares - flights out of Shirdi were really expensive, while there were affordable options out of Mumbai. I checked with my credit card provider website, and found I could redeem my credit card reward points for a free ticket - I did the booking almost immediately, and booked myself of an Indigo flight departing a little past midnight - thus allowing sufficient connecting time for me to get to Mumbai from Shirdi.

Then came the search for tickets to travel to Mumbai. I briefly romanced the idea of taking a train - but then, I had to reach Nashik and then take a train, and tickets weren't available either. I looked a redbus briefly - and then headed to the MSRTC website. I finally booked a ticket on a Shivshahi, the new AC seater service of MSRTC. I did this booking through redbus, pocketing a small discount as well. This particular bus was selected since it had good ratings on redbus, and was fairly well rated on punctuality. I had to get to the airport comfortably early enough to have some time for dinner as well.

February 02, 2020:
After a very heart-filling darshan at the temple, I was back at the hotel room well before noon. I had informed the hotel that I'd checkout a little later than the scheduled check-out time. Very much like my experience with the hotel the last year, the staff were very warm and helpful. I had my lunch at the restaurant in the hotel itself - the food was tasty and was prepared fresh. I headed to the bus station a little later - well before the scheduled departure of my bus. The bus station was crowded as usual - live every weekend. It looks like people prefer travel without reservations - people were everywhere waiting for the next bus to pounce upon. Buses to different parts of the state kept pouring in. My bus to Mumbai was brought to the departure platform by around 1315hrs - with about 15 minutes to go for departure.
The bus, before departure from Shirdi.

People mobbed the bus - needless to stay. People pushed around to get into the bus - the driver kept shouting there are reservations, but nobody to listen. I remained outside for some more time until the crowd settled. I got into the bus with about 5 minutes to go for departure. The interiors lacked a premium feel - can't complain though. The interiors were functional - the AC was running at full force, and it was quite cold inside. The bus was built by Antony Garages on an Ashok Leyland TF2312 Chassis. The seats were quite comfortable as well. Yeah - I had to vacate two unreserved passengers from my seat before I could occupy my seat. The conductor came in a while later, checked tickets and evicted most of the unreserved passengers - the bus was fully booked, it seems. He did have some empty seats till Nashik though. We finally got moving at 1336hrs - 6 minutes behind schedule.

I felt the bus was struggling to move, right from the beginning. The bus was being raised to quite high rpms as it moved - from the sound, I could understand the engine surely had a problem. The bus didn't speed a lot - but we kept progressing quite well towards Nashik. The sun was on my side of the bus - I had to leave my window curtains closed to avoid getting fried in the heat. The AC was still in full force, and with the curtain closed, it was quite cold as well. I dozed off for a while, since I had nothing to see out with the windows closed. We rolled into a bus station a little later - at Sinnar, at 1455hrs. We didn't have empty seats - so the bus just stopped, the crew went to report their arrivals, we backed out a little later, and we left the bus station (1459hrs).
This design is a vinyl wrap.

The sun was still on my side - but it got a little better. We had entered a four laned highway. The speed increased a little bit - we were moving faster towards Nashik now. We got to Nashik Mahamarg bus station by 1546hrs - a short break was announced (we were quite ahead of schedule) and the crew walked out. This was an opportunity to use the rest room, and have a short walk. The bus station was quite deserted. We had a few passengers joining here - we picked them up and got moving at 1604hrs - four minutes behind schedule. The bus picked pace soon after we returned to the highway - the engine was quite noisy, which is unusual for an iEGR engine.

The bus wasn't very fast - quite a lot of ordinary MSRTC buses overtook us with ease. I was getting a little hungry - a break wasn't in sight. I tried using the mobile charger above my seat - but lo! The USB port was broken, and the charger wouldn't work! I resigned to fate - turned off data, turned on the power saver mode and rested for the rest of the time. The bus pulled in for a break at a sleepy motel, at Khardi (1740hrs). The motel didn't have a lot of snack options - I was terribly hungry and I had to eat something. They did have hot Samosa - combine with Pav - a killer evening snack! We started off from the place at 1812hrs. It was slowly getting dark - the traffic got thicker as we neared Mumbai.
During the tea break..

Things got a little boring as we came closer to Mumbai - traffic got denser as well. We crawled through traffic - stopped at Kalyan Phata to drop a few passengers (1920hrs) and rushed towards Mumbai. We stopped at Majiwada to drop a few passengers (1943hrs) and the headed to the Khopat bus station in Thane (1950hrs) - the bus waited here for a while, and then started off (1954hrs). I had checked with the crew to find out where should I alight to head to the airport - they said Ghatkopar was the best. I had guessed that going by my experience of staying in the City - but then I just wanted to confirm, since I had no idea of what was the present traffic scene in Mumbai. I was finally dropped at Ghatkopar, near the BEST bus station at 2019hrs. I believe the bus was little behind schedule - but not heavily delayed.

Remarks: The bus, MH-06-CW-3452, was homed at Parel depot, in Mumbai. The bus was in good shape externally and internally - the engine struggled to get moving, and maybe the mechanicals weren't in great shape. The interiors were fairly clean - not spotless by any level of expectation. There were left over food packets on seat back pockets, dirt and dust on the floor as well. The overall cleanliness was average. The crew were good - not very friendly, but quite accomodative. Driving was great - not rash at any point, and it felt very safe. The bus kept sane speeds (a little slow, to be honest), maintained lane discipline and used horns very appropriately. The rest stop wasn't great - it was clean, and had good rest rooms as well, but overall availability of food wasn't great. The Shivshahi service by MSRTC is a basic AC seater service - it was true to this point. The bus took about 6h43m to get to Ghatkopar from Shirdi - good run time, I'd say. 

Amenities:
Blanket: No
Pillow: No
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Did not work!
Entertainment: Not Available.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 4/5
Cleanliness: 3.5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4.75/5

Overall: 4/5

Pros: Punctuality, Awesome ride, great crew, Value for money.
Cons: Dirty bus, unpredictable maintenance

Will I take this service again? Its a great option on the route!

Comments

rahulvijayev said…
When did KSRTC introduce the Ambaari Dream Class in Shirdi-Bangalore route? Looks like very recent?

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