Chennai to Bengaluru: Shatabdi Express

For the first time in my umpteen journeys to Chennai, I considered booking a train for my return journey from Chennai. I ruled out buses for a few reasons - the main ones being the timings, pick-up points in Chennai and the drop in Bengaluru. I had a big trolley bag with me, and would be returning after a six day long stay in Chennai - and I did not want to lug my bag to Koyambedu (or anywhere) to take a bus, and then have to lug my bag around in Bengaluru, since most buses terminate in or around Madiwala these days. KSRTC was not an option since their sleeper buses are quite old, and I did not fancy traveling by those noisy Coronas. Train was my call, and I booked a ticket by the weekly express from Chennai to Yeshwantpur.

I was in a quandary after getting to Chennai. The hotel I was staying at had a check out policy of 12pm (a restriction due to the low cost booking I secured through Goibibo), and the train was to depart only at 2330hrs. I would have to spend a lot of time doing nothing but securing my baggage at Central station in the evening. I tried booking a retiring room at the station - but it showed no availability all the time. I decided to take a call after getting the program schedule for the rest of the days. I realised that the classes were completing well before 1600hrs every time - I could now risk booking the Shatabdi to Bengaluru, that departs at 1730hrs. Even if the class finishes only at 1600hrs, an auto could get me to Central well in time for the train. I quickly booked a ticket on this train, and cancelled my original booking. Indian Railways makes hell lot of money through cancellations - although the official cancellation fee is only Rs. 190, I ended up over Rs. 260 on my cancellation. Now, the next problem was what do I do with my baggage - I had to either leave it at the hotel reception, or lug it to the class. Both the options seemed very tiring, and impossible to me.

February 15, 2020:
I woke up earlier than usual on this, and checked out of the hotel by around 0630hrs. I hired an autorickshaw from outside the hotel (the original plan was to take a bus, but I took a split second decision to flag down an auto instead) towards Chennai Central aka Dr. MG Ramachandran Central Station. The plan was to leave my bag at the cloak room! I managed to locate the cloak room very quickly (its located near Platform 10/11, and the RPF Station) - the staff at the cloak room wanted me to get the bag scanned and sealed from the RPF Scanning station at one of the entry gates (I forget the gate number). I did that, and returned to the cloak room proudly showing the "Security Checked" sticker that was pasted over the lock. The staff verified my identity proof, and noted down my PNR number (Passenger Name Record, the ticket confirmation number) on the booking slip. I was handed over a copy of the booking slip - I had to make a payment only when retrieving my bag later in the day. After this exercise, I walked to the Park Station, and then took an EMU to head to the university for classes.
Shatabdi Express!

The classes completed earlier that day - I, and a couple of people I had befriended at the class, headed out from the campus towards Guindy metro station on the sole private city bus in Chennai. We took a metro train from Guindy to Chennai Central and then walked in to the railway station. I headed straight to the Cloak room and retrieved my bag. The displays at the station announced that the Shatabdi express to Bengaluru would depart from Platform 1 - at the opposite end of the station. I lugged my bag to the other end of the station - the rake of my train was already berthed on the platform, the EOG was running and the coaches were open already. My seat was in C9 - towards the front end of the train. I headed out to check the power for my train after leaving my bag in the coach.
Whatta long name!

A WAP7 from Royapuram shed had already taken charge - the crew were busy checking the locomotive and the connections to the rake, including the electricity supply cables. Back in my coach, I realised that the coach was fully occupied, and people were busy adjusting seats with each other. Although the coach I was traveling in was about 10 years old, it appeared quite well maintained. The interiors were really well kept - it was not vinyl wrapped like SR's coaches. The train started off exactly at 1730hrs - the train came to a screeching halt just as my coach almost reached the end of the platform - the characteristic Alarm-Chain-Pull (ACP) warning honk came from the loco. I saw RPF cops runinng around on the platform trying to identify the culprit. We got moving by 1735hrs. We crawled out of Chennai central's track maze soon later - passed Basin Bridge junction, and picked pace.
Royapuram WAP7 in charge, sir!

Soon after we left the station, the waiter came around with water bottles followed by the welcome snacks tray. The tray had a packet of namkeen, a muffin, a fritter (masala vada) and tea kit (tea bag, dairy whitener and sugar). The welcome snack was quite filling in itself. This was followed by distribution of hot flasks containing hot water for preparing the tea. The train kept maintaining its high speed run all the while. We pulled in to Katpadi for our first halt after Chennai, at 1920hrs - this was a quick halt, and we got moving by 1922hrs. In fact, this was the only halt for this train between Chennai and Bengaluru (the train had two stops in Bengaluru, though!). It got quite dark outside - this is the most difficult part of the train journey. I watched a movie on my phone - but I was running out of charge, and the sole charging point nearby was busy all the while.
The welcome snack spread!

A flask containing enough water for two teas, but tea kit for only one!

The dinner trays came out a little past 1955hrs. Non-vegetarian food came first, followed by vegetarian. The waiter asked for options - Chapati or Biryani was the question. I opted for Chapati. It turned out that this train was among the Shatabdis in India that serve, what IRCTC calls, the Combo Meals. I found the concept quite stupid - the food quality or quantity weren't great. The Chapati combo actually had three Paranthas and a serving of Paneer Kadai, along with pickle and a pack of curd. I wasn't very impressed with the food - the Paneer Kadai had an oily tomato gravy with some paneer and capsicum floating around. The gravy was high on coriander - which was the sole flavour. The paranthas are better called rubber sheets - they were very rubbery and quite difficult to tear apart. I did have to search inside the gravy to get some pieces of Paneer (Cottage cheese)
The menu. The spread looks huge!
That was my dinner!

I stayed outside the coach for a while after my dinner - a couple of passengers I met there had the same feeling about the food as I had. By the time I returned to my seat, the meal trays were cleared. The waiter returned later with the dessert - a serving of Vannila Ice Cream from Amul! I was expecting the waiter to turn up for tips, that never happened. The train made an unscheduled halt at Bangarpet - the halt lasted about three minutes, and we get moving by 2133hrs. A delayed arrival at Bengaluru was imminent now - but there was a possibility of making up some time if we got a non-stop run after Bangarpet. Hopes were dashed as the train slowed down to a crawl at Devangonthi. I think we did not stop - but almost did.
Nobody beats Amul when it comes to ice creams!

We picked pace after Devangonthi - rushed past Whitefield, then Krishnarajapuram and then Baiyyapanahalli. We slowed down after BYPL, crawled through Bangalore East towards Cantonment. The train finally stopped at  Bangalore Cantonment, at 2228hrs. Quite a lot of passengers got of here, and we got moving from here by 2231hrs. Already a minute past the scheduled arrival time at Bengaluru City. I headed to the door after this - doorplating after a very long time, actually. The train finally pulled in to Platform 7 of Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna Station Bengaluru at 2241hrs - about 11 minutes behind schedule.

Journey in a Nutshell:
Train Number: 12027 MGR Central Chennai - KSR Bengaluru Shatabdi Express
Loco link: WAP7 #37149 of Royapuram
Coach: C9, LWSCZAC #10152/C built by Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala. Based at Bengaluru City.

Punctuality: 10/10 (Negligible delay)
Cleanliness: 10/10 (Absolutely clean, On board housekeeping service was also available)
Catering: 7.5/10 (Dinner was poor, but rating the service overall)

Overall: 9/10

I absolutely loved the service. Its an awesome service from Chennai to Bengaluru - I'll try a different option with the catering next time for sure. I am sure to repeat this train. 


rahulvijayev said…
"sole private bus in Chennai"? can you please provide some more details on that? would really love to hear more on this trivia.
varadharajan said…
" I headed out to check the power for my train after leaving my bag in the coach." But How did you manage your luggage when you went to see the Engine.. Will it be ok to leave the bags when you are solo.
Binai K Sankar said…
@Rahul, the entire fleet of city buses in Chennai are operated by Metropolitan Transport Corporation. However, one old private permit still exists, and that bus runs on route 54, from Poonamallee to Broadway. See the bus here:

@Varadharajan - I'd prefer not to answer that ;)