Bengaluru to Chennai: KSRTC Airavat Volvo!

Booking tickets to Chennai is never an easy affair - there are a whole lot of operators I'd want to try. This time around, I was traveling to Chennai for a week long stay, and was leaving Bangalore in the morning, so that I get to my hotel before its dark and I could rest comfortably that night. While looking at early departures, I was found some interesting options on the KSRTC website. I saw an Airavat listed with a 9am departure from Shantinagar. I did go through private operators - but was inclined to try this Airavat service. The bus was empty - not a single seat booked until then. I waited for a few days to see if the condition continued. I finally booked the first row window seat in the bus - it was a day journey, and KSRTC keeps the front screens open!

February 09, 2020:
I started off from home by around 0700hrs on an Uber cab. The driver didn't seem very happy with the long ride, but it being Sunday, there was too little traffic. He dropped me outside the Shantinagar bus station a little before 0800hrs. I headed straight to the A2B restaurant nearby for breakfast, and then returned to the bus station. I peeped in to the depot to see which bus would be taking me to Chennai - the bus wasn't around the gate yet. There was no sign of the bus even as the clock ticked closer to 0900hrs. The bus turned out of the depot a little before 0900hrs, and arrived at the bus station exactly at 0900hrs.
The bus coming in from the depot... 

A fairly new Volvo B8R 'Airavat' was taking me to Chennai today. This was also my first ride on KSRTC's Volvo B8R, and the third ride on a B8R. Boarding started a little later since the conductor was yet to get the boarding chart. There were about 7 reservations - the crew managed to get a few walk in passengers too. It turned out at the both the crew members were not regulars on the route - they checked with me if I knew the route, since I was seated in the first row. We started off from Shantinagar bus station at 0920hrs - about 20 minutes late. The driver took it slow - we crawled through the city, heading towards Old Madras Road. We took some walk in passengers on the way - they were all to Kolar. We got to Krishnarajapuram by 0948hrs - picked a couple of reserved passengers and started off at 0949hrs.
Interiors of the bus - the bus features executive seats, and not semi-sleepers.

Soon after hitting the highway, the conductor headed to have his breakfast, while the driver was busy munching miles. He quickly checked if I knew where was the usual break point - I replied that this was my first ride on this schedule. He, later, entrusted the responsibility to the conductor to identify the break point. A little in to the ride, the crew changed at a toll gate - the driver went to the rear for his breakfast and perhaps to sleep for a while. The bus was being driven at speeds in the range of 75-80kmph - I understood from the driver that the bus was speed locked at 80kmph. The bus did reach around 90kmph, but that was on a slope.
The two laned road after Chittoor

The ride was largely eventless till we got to Chittoor bypass (it was eventless even after that) - a couple of passengers alighted here (1220hrs) and turned towards Ranipet. A little after we turned, the conductor (who was at the wheels now) realised that we had missed our lunch break point. We had already covered a few kilometres already - and the crew obviously didn't want to turn back. We carried on towards Chennai. The road were being four-laned, and we were negotiating diversions very frequently, and we were quite slow. The roads got a lot better after we got into Tamilnadu - it was a two laned road after the border, with no signs of widening either. The bus stopped a little past the TN border for a quick break - the crew changed again here, and started off by around 1301hrs. We lost about 15 minutes near Ranipet due to a funeral procession. Despite all these delays, the bus never went above 65kmph after the driver took over (the conductor was a fast driver).
This is one of my favorite liveries on a Volvo. Its simple and elegant..

By now the driver was on the lookout for a hotel to stop - I suggested one hotel, which is a usual break point for KSRTC buses. He agreed for it, and we quickly got into the look out for it. In the meantime, we joined the highway past Walajah - I expected the driver to pick-up some pace - but that never happened. He remained stable at 65kmph even on the highway! We pulled over at Hotel Ramanaas for lunch, near Kanchipuram (1418hrs). The bus was parked at a very awkward position due to road widening work. The hotel served great food - in fact, I loved their lunch a lot. The spread was simple, but was delicious and filling.
During the lunch break..

We started off after Lunch, at 1450hrs. The driver was at the wheels again - and the bus continued crawling at 65kmph. I got a little sleepy after a while, and literally dozed off. The bus did not stop anywhere to drop passengers - we rolled past Poonamalle and Maduravoyal. No body alighted at Rohini either - the driver was a little confused if he should take a right there, but then decided to continue towards the flyover. There was absolutely no traffic, and we simply cruised through the flyover. The bus finally got to CMBT arrivals bay at 1609hrs - just 9 minutes late, despite the crawl from Ranipet onwards!!

Remarks: The bus, KA-57-F-3970 homed at Bengaluru-4 depot had about 20K kilometres on the odo. The bus was new - in mint condition. The interiors were clean and smelled very fresh. Both the crew members were friendly - they spoke very politely to all passengers and made sure all of them were comfortable. The conductor drove faster compared to the driver - both of them were great, and never gave the feeling of rashness. I really loved the service - but, unfortunately, this service has been stopped now. 

Blanket: No
Pillow: No
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Did Worked!
Entertainment: Available, not used.

Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5 (18 minutes late at origin, 9 minutes late at destination)

Overall: 5/5

Pros: Punctuality, Awesome ride, great crew, Value for money.
Cons: May be slow driving..

Will I take this service again? Its a great choice, but the service has been stopped as on date.