Tuesday, August 16, 2011

One night @ Krishnagiri-KSRTC Experience

This post shares my experience (by and large positive) of an ad-hoc change of plans and dealing with KSRTC in connection with changed boarding points, and the experience of spending few hours in Krishnagiri bus stand.

When Sankara had planned a trip to Valparai, he and his friends would drive from Bangalore and I was to join enroute (I live in Chennai). I made attempts to book tickets from Chennai to destinations like Krishnagiri, Salem, Coimbatore etc, but Aug 12-15 being long weekend, couldn’t get any tickets. I was left with only one option- Book KSRTC ticket to Bangalore and join the folks in Bangalore itself.
First half was fine- since they were to start by Saturday morning, I could arrive in city before they left and join them near electronic city. My return ticket to Chennai was for a KSRTC multi axle Volvo bus that would start from Bangalore at 11.11 PM on 15th. To catch this bus it was essential that we reach city before 11pm

Considering the time it took for us to reach Valparai and sensing general mood of the team, by Sunday night itself our reaching Blr before 11 PM next day looked uncertain. 15th Aug morning we visited couple of places and left Valparai only by 2.30 PM. We had to cover 460 km in 8.5 hours, including hill, highway and city traffic, which was difficult since rest of the team didn't have any urgency and I couldn't afford to force them to overspeed. My brain started evaluating alternate options.

- Option 1: First option was to cancel the ticket, try my luck with Chennai bound buses from Coimbatore/Pollachi/Salem etc. Chances of a last minute ticket was very weak (at reasonable fares)
- Option 2: Second option was to take a day’s leave from work, reach Bangalore leisurely, plan for Blr-Chennai travel next day-this was designated worst case scenario and last option to be adopted
- Option 3: Third option was to intercept the bus on its way to Chennai and board it. Because the bus would take Hosur-Krishnagiri-Vellore-Chennai route, and we were returning from Salem-Dharmapuri-Krishnagiri route, it looked highly practical that I can reach Krishnagiri and wait for the bus.

Monday 5 PM
We were leaving Pollachi. I decided to try implement Option 3. I had to inform KSRTC about my change of plans else they’ll treat it as no show (at origin point) and conductor would sell the seat to someone else. I called the numbers mentioned on the ticket- the people whom I spoke to weren’t helpful. They were booking counter staff who could only cancel a booking or make new booking- they flatly refused to note my change of boarding point and inform the bus conductor accordingly.

It was my seat- for which I’d paid and confirmed. If I don’t board, they are supposed to run with that seat empty. I wasn’t asking for any special privilege or exclusive boarding point- Bus would anyway stop in Krishnagiri for refreshment. But the booking counter staff made it clear that they don’t follow this logic. If passenger doesn’t turn up, they can do whatever they want with the seat was the absolute answer. They refused to let me talk to any supervisor/conductor of the bus etc and insisted that I should make it to the boarding point on time in my own interest.

Monday 5.30PM
With that I thought of opting for Option 1, but then another idea struck me. I asked a cousin in Bangalore if he can go to the boarding point in the night, (Shantinagar Bus stand) meet the conductor of the bus and convey to the conductor that I will be boarding at Krishnagiri and not to sell the seat to anyone. He agreed.

This was a gamble. To know the result of this (my cousin going to bus stand and speaking to conductor) I had to wait till 11 PM (Bus has to arrive and boarding should start) If I cancel right away I was eligible to get about 75% refund. If delayed, it would come down to 50%. If the conductor were to be adamant/non cooperative, I would be back to square one.  If he agrees but I end up missing the bus, I would loose 100%.

9.15 PM: We stop at Dharmapuri for lunch. My plans still uncertain. Luckily timing was perfect- we might take 30 minutes for lunch and about 1 hour to reach Krishnagiri, by then my cousin can brief me on his conversation with the conductor.

9.45 PM: we leave for Krishnagiri- Heavy rains press against the wind shield. I wonder how do I get around in Krishnagiri town in this rain.

10.45 PM our cars are nearing Krishnagiri. I had to decide if I should get down here or proceed to Bangalore and go for Option 2 mentioned earlier. Cousin tells me that he has reached the bus stand and the said bus hasn’t turned up yet.

11 PM: My cousin speaks to the conductor, conveys the situation and conductor agrees to the change in boarding point. We all agree that I’ll be boarding at Krishnagiri bus stand. Conductor was helpful and first hurdle is cleared. Rain is light.

11.15 PM Friends drop me near Krishagiri bus stand and proceed to Bangalore. Had I been in Bengaluru at that time I could have boarded the bus and sleep like a child (as Airavata club class ad says) Now I’m destined to wait in Krishagiri bus stand sine die till the bus turns up. ETA 0100 hours.

11.30 PM The conductor calls me from his mobile to ascertain my position- asks me to wait near the place where KSRTC TC would sit in Krishnagiri bus stand. I wasn’t expecting him to call and was happy at his gesture. Ticket said ETA at Krishnagiri was about  0100-0115 hours. I prepared myself for multi hour wait in a bus terminal which had only few dry spots left. Others were covered in water due to rain or passengers were sleeping all over.

I walked around the bus stand. Saw couple of SETC buses leaving for Chennai. If I board it, maybe I would save couple of hours. I chose to wait, thinking I can get good sleep in a Volvo than an ordinary bus.

12 AM: Population at the bus stand starts to dwindle. Couple of policemen do their rounds, blow whistle, randomly ask people NOT to do whatever they are doing (like don’t sleep here, don’t sit there etc) Outside, buses continue to ply, long distance buses belonging to KPN, Sharma and other private travels would make quick stop and look to fill up any unoccupied seats

Couple of Innova drivers roam around to sense which destination has good demand, gather prospective travelers, negotiate and fix a price and plan a departure to specific city.

Rain stops and dozens of street dogs storm the street, barking randomly at each other or at vehicles. Some pelt stones at them and chase them away.

12.30 AM:
Our KSRTC Ticket collectors are unable to resist the sleep. They doze off in their makeshift seats. Once a while KSRTC express buses would pull over, conductors would come out and submit their trip details (how many seats sold, how many full ticket, half ticket and passes, what is the cash at hand etc) take seal from TC and move on. None of the Volvo buses have pulled over so far for this reporting and I wonder why.

1AM: I continue to await for my multi axle airavata. As it is expected anytime, I do a small walk around the main road. What if it just zips away without stopping? Some people on the road continue to ask all bus drivers if they have a seat to take them. Conductors calmy reply “Seat illai (Tamil for: No seat)” and proceed.

I didn’t see any touts roaming around, taking passengers to their private buses. May be Krishnagiri is not an attractive enough market for them.

1.20 AM: No sign of my bus. No other KSRTC airavata passes by either. I called the conductor to check the status. The voice sounded so strange, I wondered if I called wrong number. Apparently the conductor was deep asleep. It took him a minute to figure out who I was and why I was calling. “We’re coming there, we’ll be there shortly”- he mentioned vehicle number, added that it is Multi axle. I said “OK, I’ll wait”

1.45 AM No sign of the bus. If I had boarded that SETC bus at 11.30 I would have probably crossed Vellore by now. I resist my temptation of calling the conductor again and make up my mind that in next 30 minutes if it doesn’t turn up, I should think of other alternatives.

1.50 AM my dream liner finally pulls over. With all its 10 wheels. I introduce myself to the conductor, he checks my ticket and asks me to get in. Meanwhile the ticket collector asks the Conductor to get him 3-4 mineral water bottles from the bus- the ones meant to be distributed among passengers. “Don’t come without those bottles” he says in a teasing tone to the conductor.

I realize that TCs have a sort of jealousy towards AC bus crew. May be because the TCs are a level or two above the AC bus crew in terms of career ladder and while they sit in makeshift offices, AC bus crew get to enjoy comfortable journey.

1.55 AM, I go inside, get to my seat, had to wake up neighboring passenger from his deep sleep to get to my seat. Noted that seat No 24 and 25 in multi axle bus have extra leg room (due to emergency exit next to it)  Took my seat apologizing to the fellow passengers

2AM: the bus starts from Krishnagiri. Stops 5 minutes later- conductor gets out in rain, gets two cups of tea- one for himself and another for driver, from a roadside tea shop. Minutes later, we’re Chennai bound.

6AM was when I opened my eyes, as the bus merged into a traffic full of buses heading to Koyambedu. Fellow passenger who woke up now, said “he is late- he was supposed to reach at 5.30AM” Eventually I got out, thanked the conductor, took a photo and reached home by 8AM

Few afterthoughts:
  • Because I was aware that the bus has a check point and refreshment stop in Krishnagiri it helped. Else tracing the bus and boarding it mid way can be a challenge.
  • Overall I am happy that all went well. Involved coordinated efforts from my cousin who went to bus stand, the conductor, my friends who dropped me at Krishnagiri and so on.
  • Because I had a cousin who could go in person to the bus stand to convince the conductor about change in boarding point I could manage. Not everyone will have a person free and willing to do this. Shouldn’t KSRTC take such requests on phone?
  • Thinking from KSRTC’s view, giving too many pickup points and allowing people to change the same can lead to chaos- as people may start abusing the system and resulting in delays, traffic jams and other issues.
  • If it was a private bus, do you think I could have managed this change of plan?
  • I pity the ticket collector who work on a simple table and chair. KSRTC should tie up with SETC/other states to offer better facilities to its staff. Next they can plan for lounge kind of waiting area for premium ticket holders… (just my wishlist)

Lot of people complain about KSRTC, but I’ve not had any significantly bad experience with KSRTC yet. They are fairly on time and do not resort to unauthorized activities like private carriers (loading excess cargo, excess passengers etc)

This post is also an entry for momentum of moments contest of

Other similar posts: Surviving KSRTC bus accident *Hyderabad-Bangalore by bus- Comparison of operators * Be kind to bus drivers * Chennai MTC Volvo Buses * Bangalore BMTC Volvo buses * Smart folding seats in Srilanka buses *


Anu said...

what a trip!!! I have had some good experiences with ksrtc too... but none as riveting as this!

Sankara Subramanian C said...

Looks like you caught the bus finally! Am glad. Now, till our next trip :-)

Sheshadri N said...

most of my experience with ksrtc was bad.... i say its ur luck that u got a conductor with sense.... coz most of the times conductor will behave in such a way that he is paid to act opposite to what the passenger asks...

shande said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shande said...

good read .. appreciate ur on-the-spot thinking and also credits to ur cousin .. is it Ravi Raj ?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Shande: Yes

Sheshadri: what was bad?

Sankara: Yes

Anu: :)

The wild said...

even i have had the odd bad experience in ksrtc ,but believe me it wins hands down ahead of any other state govt service anywhere in India.

Once long back i remember i was in ooty and back then ksrtc had introduced rajahamsa and everyone was so enamoured with the bus and everyone was queuing up to get a seat on it.Even the Airavata looks stunning and stands out anywhere it is parked and everyone stops to take a relook at it.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

The Wild: Thanks for sharing your experiences

Preetham said...

Though you have managed to get the bus, easy thing which was possible was cancel the ticket and get a bus from Salem.Many operators are there and getting tickets to Chennai would be much easy!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Yes, could have tried my luck at unreserved buses

bus from lcct said...

KSRTC expereince night Krishnagiri bus service. Read to know more