Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A journey with KeSRTC

I was looking searching for options to travel from Thrissur to Mangalore in an emergency after receiving a shocking news from my relative. The news came by 11:00 am and I planned for my journey at the earliest.
My first option is to check train services. I know I can’t get any reservation even Tatkal will be closed the previous day itself. My looking is for the timings and the train’s destination so that I could guess about the crowd in the Unreserved Coach.

The upcoming trains via Mangalore are bound to Bikaner, Mumbai, Hazrat Nizammudin etc., and I know there won’t be any space to place my foot.

My next option goes to search of Buses. KaSRTC has only one service from Ernakulam to Mangalore which is an Airavat Club Class. For my unlucky, the bus is full. I then headed to the KeSRTC bus Stand at Thrissur.

I went to this bus stand so many times, and wonder, how an important city like Thrissur have  a shabby and nasty Bus Stand like this. I approached the Reservation counter and enquired about the bus to Mangalore. The reply was partially happy and partially shocking. Happy one is there is a bus at 20:30 hrs which is a direct bus to Mangalore. Shocking are two things. 1. It is an ordinary Super Fast Bus 2. The fare will be charged from Ernakulam. First I explain why they are shocking.

 KeSRTC's RNE623 (taken at the time of its induction)

The bus is an Ordinary Super Fast Bus. It has Standard 51 Seats like Town Service, Cloth binded Windows, Noisy & Vibrated Engine, Hard Suspension. Wonder, how the KeSRTC operates such bus to the length of 420 Kms. So the travel in the worst of the worsts bumpy highway to Mangalore will be really a nightmare. I really imagined and proud of TNSTC / SETC for their care on passengers. Pushback seat, Glass window, Anti vibrating insulation, Air Suspension, Closed room for Passengers to avoid Engine Noise, Stereo (some have even video). This kind of basic amenities will be taken care in Tamilnadu, even for a journey of 200 kms.

The second shocking thing is the fare. The service is from Ernakulam to Mangalore and I have to board at Thrissur. But the reservation officer says, the fare will be charged from Ernakulam only. I thanked myself for not opting for Trivandrum-Mangalore Bus (which is also an ordinary bus runs for 637 kms in a single stretch). If I opted this one, I would have paid Rs.453 for ticket. Since I am taking Ernakulam Bus, the charge is Rs 290. Considering the actual cost for Thrissur to Mangalore is 180, both are day robbery by KeSRTC. Surprise, even they are collecting this much of fare without any justice, they didn’t maintain a good bus for long service.

The reservation officer hesitated to make any reservation for the bus, as it takes long time for logging in and he advised not to reserve and directly board the bus at the time of departure. It will be economically too. I asked for the seat availability, he says many travel by standing to Mangalore. Surprised again!

I know I can’t travel almost 10 hrs by standing in an ordinary bus that too during night time, sacrificing my sleep. I have already searched for the availability of seats in that particular bus through my mobile and found 47 (out of 51) seats are available. Unlike KaSRTC (which accepts mobile message as ticket) KeSRTC insists for printed tickets for journey and hence I must take a print out of the ticket. So I went out of the Bus Station and looked for any Internet Café. Found one near Aliyans Hotel and booked my ticket for the journey. Selected Seat No 21. It is a left side window seat and in the middle of the Bus. This logic for booking seat in the middle of the bus is for reducing bumpy and left side is for safety.

The scheduled time of departure of my bus is 20:30 at Thrissur. So I started from Mannuthy at 19:40 by auto. It took 30 mins to reach KeSRTC bus stand from Mannuthy and paid Rs.80 as fare. Not bad! Normally Kerala Auto charges descent and reasonable fare. Wondered few times, they don’t even take any tips, as it downgrades their prestige. Comparing with our Chennai Autos they are far ahead on customer service.

Auto dropped me in the main gate of the bus stand at 20:10. I straightly went to the enquiry counter to ensure the arrival time of my bus. I was told, the bus will come not later than 20:40. Many buses bound to Trivandrum and Bangalore are in the platform. The turnaround time of each bus in the platform is 10 mins average. A descent and well planned timing is being maintained by the KeSRTC crew at the Bus Station. An announcement was being made for each and every bus when it is arrived and departs.

My bus (RNE 623 of Ernakulam depot) came into the bus station by 20:50 (exactly 20 mins late from the scheduled time). I saw my seat 21 was already occupied by the passengers coming from Ernakulam. I have to wait for Conductor to come, for getting my seat, as my requests and arguments failed to get my ‘reserved’ seat.

Conductor (after a due course of argument with the occupants) got my seat to me. It was a narrow seat with lesser leg space, similar to our MTC Town bus. I asked the conductor innocently, is there any stopping for dining enroute, and he throws his look on me, like seeing an alien. Bus will stops in Bus Station for 5 minutes. You can do whatever you like was his reply afterwards.

My bus - RNE 623 - SF - Ernakulam to Mangalore - Built at Edappal

The bus started at 21:10 (nearly 40 minutes late) from Thrissur and took the route to Calicut. It was 00:15 when the bus reached Calicut Bus Station. That is 185 minutes for 120 kms. Not bad considering the condition of the road. The bus will be there for only 5 minutes and hence I have no option for taking my dinner. I just finished it with a cup of tea and continued my sleep on the narrow seat and the chilled weather.

A bumpy road and the heavy vibration makes me awake when the time is around 03:30. Lifted the cloth covered window to find out where I am. The dark environment and cool breeze didn’t gave any clue other than it is near by sea. My phone’s GPS says its near Melparamba and the scene through the wind shield shows it is a narrow bumpy road inside a dense forest along a backwater sea. Even it looks so beautiful in night. Wondered and impressed with the speed of the bus for this stretch. Crossed 176 kms in 180 minutes with stoppages at Thalassery, Badagara, Kannur & Kanhangad.

The bus entered Kasaragod KSRTC Bus Stand at 03:50. Bus Station was fully packed with buses parked inch by inch. It seems there is no separate depot in Kasaragod and all the buses will be parked in the Bus Station itself during the night. It was a brief halt at Kasaragod and resumed its journey by 04:15 hrs.
The road to Mangalore from Kasaragod is one of the best one and our bus reached Mangalore by 05:25 which is 70 minutes for 55 kms run.

Throughout the journey I was wondering why KeSRTC is running a shabby nasty bus for this kind of long routes and why they are charging too much from the commuters. Kerala’s Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is looking for rapid development and modernization of the state but I think, he still didn’t realized that the Roads and Road Transport are the basic element of Development of the state. Whenever I drive through NH 47 (particularly between Thrissur – Vadakkanchery) I never accept it is a National Highway and the nerve line for Kerala. The condition of the road is the worst and unfit for self driving, I feel.

Also KeSRTC buses conditions and their care on commuters are very nasty. Charging for untraveled portion is a government aided robbery. I do agree, that KeSRTC owns very classy Volvo Buses and Air Conditioned Air Suspension fitted buses for its Bangalore Services. But neglecting all other routes and giving passengers an unfair justice for travelling is really shocking.

I am always proud of TNSTC which takes care of its passengers, whether they travel long or short. KeSRTC should learn from us.

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