Coimbatore to Thrissur, Kodungallur: SETC and KSRTC!

March 08, 2020:
My bus from Bengaluru dropped me opposite the bus station (read the travel experience here). I dodged the auto drivers around to get inside the bus station. It was late on a Sunday night - most departures of the day had left by then. The last bus to Kerala leaves a little past 2300hrs - and that bus comes in from Tiruppur. The bus hadn't arrived then - I had to get into this bus, failing which I'd be stuck in Coimbatore until the next morning. Interestingly, I wasn't even carrying clothes to change if I end up having to stay over! I looked at alternatives - majority of the private operators also depart by 2300hrs. I knew there were some buses coming in from other parts of Tamilnadu and passes through Coimbatore towards different parts of Kerala - but then, they need not always enter Coimbatore if they didn't have vacant seats on board.

I walked into the bus station (SETC Bus Station, Gandhipuram, Coimbatore) evaluating all the options, and back-up options, I had in hand. As I was walking in, buses to Bengaluru and Chennai were preparing to depart. SETC (State Express Transport Corporation, a Tamil Nadu government undertaking that takes care of long distance bus services in the state, and also operates to neighboring states) upgraded their fleet in the last two years or so - an exclusive fleet of Ashok Leyland 12m coaches with bodies built by SM Kannappa Automobiles (Prakash), MG Bus & Coach and KMS Coach builders. I always get happy seeing their white coaches - elegant looking ones. I got past the buses to Chennai and Bengaluru and entered the inner area of the bus station - I was quite excited to see an SETC bus parked behind with the board reading "Changanassery". Wow! This could be my first ride in a new SETC Ultra-Deluxe non-AC seater coach.
The bus at Coimbatore

I quickly check with the conductor if there were seats - he replied, get in. I check if there were any reservation seats - no, pick any seat you want! The bus had about 5 or 6 passengers on board already. I pick up a seat on the right side, on the second row - I wanted seats on the left side, but they didn't seem very clean! The interiors were good - not very clean though. There were food leftovers on the seat, and the headrest covers didn't seem to have been washed anytime recently. The bus had no signs of moving - I headed out of the bus to pick a bottle of water. I also wanted to use the restroom - I checked with the conductor to see what time the bus would depart. Instead of replying with the time, he rudely replied, Take your bag and go if you want, I'll not wait for you!. He had the audacity to say this even though the bus had hardly about 7 passengers now! I headed to the restroom despite this rude reply - the bus was still there when I returned.

I was back at my seat - the bus didn't move until 2305hrs. After rolling out of the bus station, the conductor kept seeing if he could get more passengers on board - we had some 20-odd passengers on board the 43 seater coach. The conductor started issuing tickets soon after we left Gandhipuram - he was grumpy and kept shouting around at passengers for not carrying exact denomination of money. The ticket to Thrissur cost me Rs. 140. We got to Ukkadam bus station by 2318hrs - people barged into the bus the moment the doors opened. The conductor got shouting again at passengers asking them to get off if they didn't have 'change'. The bus filled up at Ukkadam (the bus station that handles the shuttle services to Palakkad), and we got moving by 2325hrs. The driver seemed quite good - he didn't lug the engine, and maintained pace. I was getting sleepy by now - by the passenger on the seat next to me was drunk and kept making noises all the while.
Interiors..

We got into the highway soon later. A little while after we got to the highway, we encountered heavy traffic around KG Chavadi. We were stationary for some time, crawled for some time, stationary again, and crawling again! There were vehicles in the opposite direction either. It took about 25 minutes or so for the traffic to clear - I couldn't find the reason for the block, though. The bus maintained fairly good speeds after the block - the driving style was the normal SETC style, but more towards KSRTC styled. I am not sure if that is their normal style of driving, or if they were responding to the delay due to the traffic block. A family had to get off at Walayar - the crew were adamant that they get off at the bus stop near the checkpost - the family requested that they be dropped about 500metres ahead - the time was past mid-night, and the entire area was isolated. The crew fought with the passengers for a while, before the driver decided to drop the passengers at the place they wanted.

The same scene continued at Kanjikode. Another family, a bigger one this time, wanted them to be dropped near a traffic signal. The crew shout at them - the driver spoke sensibly though. He did stop the bus at the place where they wanted. The driver was genuinely concerned about the bus being back-ended if it was stopped in places that was not a designated stopping point. He is right - but then we were stopping at a traffic signal where every vehicle had to stop. May be we need to consider the safety of passengers, since dropping a family far away from their destination at such hours of the day could be a risk. Meanwhile, the bus headed towards Palakkad bus station - the construction of the bus station complex seemed to have started, and the bus stopped on the main road to drop passengers (0053hrs) - the conductor started shouting at passengers for getting off the bus slowly. He seemed quite impatient. After dropping passengers, the bus went forward, entered the new linking road, and reached the other end of the bus station (0056hrs). We stopped for a while searching for passengers - majority of the people enquired if this bus was heading to Coimbatore. We couldn't find too many passengers - we finally started off from Palakkad at 0059hrs. The drunk guy sitting next to me had alighted - a big relief, I must say.

I dozed off a while after we hit the highway. The bus was doing great speed while I had woken up briefly - the GPS on my phone showed speeds in the range of about 78kmph as well. I slept for a while more, and woke up just as the bus turned off from the highway towards Thrissur bus station. The driver still maintained good speeds, and we managed to get to Thrissur KSRTC bus station by 0222hrs - about 3 hours and 17 minutes since we left Coimbatore. Good running time considering the traffic block we encountered.

Remarks: The bus, TN-01-AN-2392, fleet code C716, homed at Trichy depot, was in good shape externally. Internally, the bus wasn't very clean, but appeared well maintained. The seats weren't very comfortable - I felt these Prakash built seats very uncomfortable even when I traveled on the AC Seater-cum-sleeper coach. The seats were scooped in too much making it quite uncomfortable. The recline angle was too less as well. The leg room wasn't very premium - they had accommodated 11 rows of seats in the bus at the cost of leg room. No comments on the crew - read the comments in line. The run time was good, and the entire experience (minus the crew) was value for money. This ride is not rated. I would surely love to try SETC on this route again.
The tickets!

March 09, 2020:
I was drowsy and groggy as I walked around the Thrissur KSRTC bus station aimlessly. The first bus to my place wouldn't depart until 0445hrs - over two hours to go for that. I was considering taking an auto rickshaw to my home - which would set me back by a little less than a grand. I wasn't willing to spend that kinda money. I considered alternative options, and the best way was to travel via Guruvayur. Just as I planned this route, I saw a bus to Guruvayur coming in. I get on to this bus - which didn't move until 0255hrs. The driver was fast from the word go. He rushed through the empty road, to get to Guruvayur a little past 0335hrs. The first bus towards Kodungallur would depart at 0400hrs. I spotted the driver putting on the board for my bus towards Kodungallur - I rush off to the bus to find a seat near the exit. The bus started off exactly at 0400hrs - and the bus was full right from the starting point. More people joined in on the way - and I slept off some where on the route. I woke up just as the bus was nearing Kodungallur - and managed to get off the bus exactly where I wanted to. I finally got home a little past 0515hrs - I might've been home atleast 2 hours earlier if I had taken an auto, nevertheless and satisfying experience!! I crashed on to the bed ten minutes later for a three hour nap before my darling little one woke me up. 

Comments

Sreejith said…
"by 0222hrs - about 3 hours and 17 minutes since we left Thrissur"- Small correction to make, since you left Coimbatore :)
Binai K Sankar said…
Thanks Sreejith. I've updated that.
vamsi.urs said…
Good one once again plz post your return journey also quickly
Parasakthi said…
Sad to see pathetic crew on ling distance buses

Do you happen to know route of the bus ?

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