I was a quandary when it came to deciding the operator for my return journey from Kerala. I was heading to Trivandrum; from there would be coming home and then take a bus from there back to Bangalore. I was not sure if I would be able to ride the new B11R of Suresh Kallada on its maiden run, so decided to book the B11R for my return journey. I tried booking Thrissur to Bangalore, but the boarding point offered was only at Mannuthy (Thrissur bypass). I changed my plan, and decided to book ex-Aluva. I chose a seat towards the rear of the bus – seat #I1 it was. Booking was done online.
January 20, 2013:
This was one very busy day – roamed around my hometown, and we went to some new tourist attractions in town, and later went for a movie in the afternoon! After all this, I had very little time in the evening. By the time I finished by dinner, it was past 2000hrs – and my bus would depart from Aluva at 2100hrs! My brother was at the wheels of our car – he did not speed up much since he was new to this road. I was a bit tensed as we continued slowly towards Aluva. We finally landed outside Kallada office in Aluva at 2050hrs – five minutes past my reporting time. The office was in the first floor of a building on the bypass. I rushed to the office and showed my ticket – he said the bus would come in at 2100hrs, and I could wait in the office. I told him that I’d be in the car. The office was fairly big, with enough waiting place – the only problem was that it was on the first floor, and the access stairs were fairly away from the road.
Just as I came out of the building, noticed a Viji B9R rushing off. I was in the car, when I saw a bus approaching the office – it was a Kallada bus. I was sure that this wouldn’t be my bus – since the time was still 2059hrs. I still checked which bus it was – I was shocked to see it was indeed my bus! The bus came in perfectly on time – a record of sorts for Kallada! I got into the bus immediately – was happy to see Joby at the wheels. He had driven the inaugural trip too, and I knew his capabilities well. It was the same crew as on the inaugural trip. I rushed into my seat – I1, a right side window seat in the 10th row. There were some more pick-ups at Aluva – from the agents nearby. We finally got moving at 2102hrs. Some Malayalam movie songs – from the late 1990s and the early 2000s – were being played on the ENT system.
|The bus: KA-01-AC-40. Photo from Archives.|
Traffic was on the higher side – we did not do great speeds. The bus stopped at Ankamaly for a pick up – at 2117hrs, and got moving after the pick-up at 2118hrs. I was not sure if the bus would stop for dinner (or if the dinner was already over). The bus went past the normal restaurants were Kallada (Suresh Kallada) stops – so I thought there was no break for dinner. But, I was wrong – the bus pulled into Hotel Jubilee, at Pongam. There were two Kallada G4s, and two KaSRTC Volvos standing there already. We stopped for break at 2126hrs. There was no photo opportunity – the bus was parked in an awkward place, and it was all congested with other buses. Three more KaSRTC Airavat Club Classes joined us – interestingly, all of them parked one behind the other. There were 3 Kallada G4s as well at the time. During the break, had a chat with the crew – Joby was all smiles about his machine. We started off at 2150hrs.
We stopped at Chalakudi for a pickup at 2202hrs, and left within a minute. The bus slowed down after Chalakudi, since we were fairly ahead of our schedule. We reached Mannuthy at 2228hrs – a whole 17 minutes before schedule. Passengers were yet to turn up at the office, since we reached even before the reporting time for passengers! Some 4 passengers got in, and we finally left Mannuthy at 2233hrs. While we waited for passengers, all those buses we had seen at Pongam (during dinner break) overtook us (except the G4s). The roads ahead were painful. I slowly drifted asleep – despite the bad road. I felt the ride was slightly better. I woke up briefly as we stopped at Palakkad bypass – 2345hrs. No pickup – but the bus stopped briefly outside the Palakkad office. We started moving, and I drifted asleep again. We were running through some horrible roads, and the bus stopped somewhere – I thought we were at the normal tea shop at Walayar – the time was 0021hrs. The place did not look like Walayar to me, but then I thought we had crossed over into TN – this could be KG Chavadi.
I slept for some more time. When I woke up, we were still at the very same place – the time was 0050hrs. I switched on my GPS to find out where we could be – it turned out that we were at Gopalapuram, on the Palakkad-Pollachi road! I dozed off again, and woke up a while later – the time was 0111hrs, and the bus was just starting off, from the check post – so we lost 50 minutes waiting there! The road ahead was more or less inexistent. It was a choppy ride ahead – the bus was swaying all the time. We crossed Pollachi shortly (around 0128hrs). We turned off to some narrow road from there. There was one Kallada G4 bus for company, and both the buses kept moving at the same pace for quite some time. Later, my bus overtook the G4 bus and we rushed ahead. I dozed off.
I woke up when the bus was stationary at the Perundurai pump – this is one Kallada lovers’ heaven. By the time I realised that we were at the pump, the bus got moving – the LED clock in the bus read 0330hrs. I have no idea when did we pull into the pump. I had a very deep sleep after Perundurai – in fact, I was asleep even before the bus entered the highway! I woke up around 0600hrs – the bus was stationary, and the road was all jammed up. We were moving slowly at some points – sometime later, the bus moved over to the opposite lane – rather, traffic cops were asking vehicles to move to the opposite lane. We were running behind two other Kallada buses and some trucks. We were moving at a slow pace – I saw that the other side was jammed, and there were lots of buses in the block including a G4, and some KaSRTCs. I understood that we were past Krishnagiri – since road widening works were in progress. I noticed that a truck had flipped over, lying perfectly across the road! A crane was trying to remove the truck – so the traffic block wouldn’t be cleared quickly – I thanked the cops for diverting our bus.
Now, our bus overtook the other crawlers, and was on the tail of a Kallada B9R. Both the buses gave company to each other, overtaking at times and then getting overtaken by the other. The drama continued all the time. We passed Hosur at 0635hrs – now, it was over 240kms done in 3 hours flat – including the traffic block! The driver did a good job – given the fact that the bus is speed locked as well! Thankfully there was no block at Atibelle check post (all the vehicles were stuck at the accident site) – both the buses cleared the toll together. We reached Electronic City BETL toll gate at 0657hrs. The bus took the BETL, and we reached Silk Board at 0704hrs.
End remarks: The bus, KA-01-AC-40, had around 59xx kms on the odo. The bus was brand new – so no point in talking of maintenance. The iShift was as noisy as the one in the B9R – but I think the transmission was more refined in the B11R. The leg space was somewhat better – maybe just a feeling, or it could be real – I really don’t have an answer. The driving style was excellent – I loved both the drivers. The bus would’ve surely done good speeds between Perundurai and Krishnagiri – since we did over 200kms in less than 2.5hours – but I did not feel the speed. Good driving. The end-to-end running time was about 10h02m – about an hour more than the scheduled running time. That is acceptable – since we lost over 50 minutes at Gopalapuram checkpost, and then again at the accident site. Kallada has got a really big network, and has service to most parts of Central and South Kerala from Bangalore. They need to get their staff behaviour improved – especially the office staff at Bangalore. A lot of delays happen at the Bangalore end - especially at the Madiwala office where ticket checking begins only after the scheduled departure time – a minimum 30 minutes delay in departure is guaranteed. Kallada has been heavily criticized by passengers for their delay – the drivers are doing a fairly good job within their limits – but the office staffs need to co-operate more. These days, a lot of positive opinion about Kallada is appearing on the net – hope Kallada keeps up the steam and changes for good.
Water Bottle: Yes (1ltr bottle)
Snacks: Yes (50g Good Day biscuit)
Maintenance (including cleanliness): 5/5
Staff Behaviour: 5/5
Will I take this service again: This service was too good. The crew were well behaved. Kallada is too inconsistent and unpredictable. If only they kept could be consistent in their services. Maybe I’ll try it again.