I have written many times about how I prefer Shatabdi train for travel between Chennai & Bangalore, so I will not tire you again on that.
Today I had to go to Bangalore for Microsoft TechEd India 2012, I was not speaking this time so no need to go the day before for rehearsals. Being a Wednesday there was no Shatabdi in the morning and if I take the evening one I will miss Day 1 of TechEd entirely. So I decided to try the new luxury bus from Olivea (the same group that now owns Nilgris supermarkets). The one-way ticket (discounted) cost about Rs.1700, includes onboard breakfast, individual video, premium seats, washroom – though the last one is least thought of while booking, makes a lot of difference for a comfortable travel. From Chennai the bus leaves at 7 AM, boarding was from Hotel Radha Regent at Inner Ring Road (near MMDA Bus terminus). The lounge at Radha Regent was comfortable and they give you complimentary coffee/tea. Since I had reached there at 6 AM itself I decided to go for a tasty breakfast (additional charges by the Hotel).
The bus had only 50% of seats occupied out of the 21 seats.
First the nice things:
- The seats were pretty comfortable & were of nice width (Aircraft business class like)
- Individual Video screen with selection of Movies
- Bouquet of live television channels, thanks to DISH Satellite DTH
- On-board Breakfast (Idlies, Upma, Sambar were all piping hot; Chutney & Flavoured yoghurt)
- The ride was without many bumps, thanks to the modern suspension
The things that were poor:
- The interiors were looking old, dull; poor maintenance I suppose
- Though the seats were comfortable, the tray in front was badly designed. You have to hold the food plates in old hand, otherwise, it will fall down immediately
- The washroom was dimly lit, not designed for a bus so it was hardly usable due to jerks, poor plumbing & bad odour – even after several hours of journey I can’t the get stinking smell out of my mind
- They advertised Wi-Fi, but I couldn’t find any SSID nor any information was provided for that
- Apart from a water bottle, breakfast, they served “Fanta” in open paper cups (could have given a canned juice). No coffee or tea was offered
- For some reasons I felt a little nauseating (may be due to two breakfasts or due to the frequent lane changes & the churn in stomach because of that) during the whole ride
- The video entertainment system was complicated, too many controls, two wired remote & bad audio
The last thing that was bad was the drop point in Bangalore being at HSR Layout (Outer Ring Road) in their own office. No transportation was available there (no taxi, no autorickshaw), your choice was limited to someone picking you up or calling a call-taxi (which the receptionist did promptly).
In summary, the luxury bus with a lounge service was great ideas but poor execution. A missed (business) opportunity like many other things in today’s India.