Horrible experience with public transport: Is KSRTC getting worse?

Had to use the Kerala SRTC as I had to travel to Ernakulam on short notice and the trains weren’t available.

BHPian BLACNWYTE recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Many of us might have experienced horrible things during the use of public transportation. The usual inconvenience of being overcrowded, rusty, unclean, and tardy notwithstanding, I want this thread to enumerate the extreme experiences that these institutions provide. Be it rail, bus or ferry. Maybe this is what causes more and more people to leave public transportation and makes our overburdened infrastructure even more pathetic.

Now I know there is a thread which discusses why someone has stopped using public transportation, however, I could not find one regarding horrible experiences while using one. This is not a post regarding why I have stopped using public transport (read Kerala SRTC buses) but might soon stop. If mods do feel like this belongs in that thread kindly merge this.

Coming to my horrible experience, I had to travel from Trivandrum to Ernakulam on short notice and train tickets were unavailable so I decided to make the journey through KSRTC Super-fast Bus. Booked the ticket online and got a confirmed seat. In hindsight this was a good decision since the KSRTC is a mess now, they have fewer schedules operating and most of them are pre-booked almost fully. So if you want to get a seating of your choice you will have to reserve tickets for long-distance travel.

Coming back to my ordeal, the bus was supposed to start from Trivandrum depot at 3:30 PM. I reached the depot by 3 PM and was informed that the bus will reach by 3:30 PM from the reservation desk. I informed them that I have a reservation but I have not yet received my SMS with the bus number and contact info of the conductor. Usually, you get this message around 30 minutes prior to your scheduled bus departure. I was again told not to worry, the conductor will have the reservation details with him and I will be contacted. So I started my wait. 3:15 PM, still no SMS. 3:30 PM came and went, no SMS and no bus apparently. I again approached the enquiry section and they told me that the bus is running late. They didn’t know when it will be there. When I specifically asked isn’t the bus originating from this depot they said the bus is currently completing a trip and it will come here and then proceed to the next destination and still they didn’t exactly know where the bus was at.

Anybody who had travelled by road from Trivandrum to Ernakulam during peak hours will know that it is at least a 6-7 hour trip to cover 200 odd kilometres. On top of it, this was the end of the weekend after Onam and everybody seems to be coming or going somewhere. To say the road was crowded will be an understatement.

4 PM – still no sign of SMS or the bus. This was the first time that I was having a bad experience with KSRTC in the past 5-6 years. However, this was about to get worse. I had booked my ticket through MMT, and I could see only the starting point and end point info of my journey in the app. Unknowingly I had booked the bus which went via MC road instead of my usual choice of NH 66. I learnt this only after I boarded the bus.

Anyway, at 4:15 and finally I got an SMS mentioning the bus number and contact info of the conductor and I quickly dialled the number only to hear a busy tone. This happened for the next 3-4 tries after which I accepted the fact that I’m not going to get through. The bus was still not to be seen. Enquiry at the desk was as fruitful as the first time. Finally, at around 4:30, the bus pulled into the depot and I boarded asap and dropped my bag someplace safe and expected the bus to leave swiftly since it was already an hour late.

The bus driver, (new shift, new guy) was heard saying we are so late we will leave immediately as my seat was just diagonally opposite to that of the driver. A fellow came and asked the driver when will the bus leave as he had to go to the restroom to which the driver replied that he cannot guarantee anything as it was already very late and that’s why he is still idling the engine. This cemented my belief that we will depart soon and that fellow went back to his seat most probably dreading extreme bladder control given the next rest stop could be 2-3 hrs away.

Expecting to leave immediately, I plugged in my headphones, loaded my favourite playlist for the road got into a comfortable position and waited. Waiting. Still waiting. Some more and then the driver just shut off the engine opened the door, got down and went somewhere! The nerve!. If I were surprised, I don’t know what that guy was feeling, who the driver told he couldn’t go pee because we will be leaving immediately. Well to his relief, he used this as an opportunity to run to the loo. Good for him.

The bus was supposed to leave at 3:30 PM from Trivandrum and reach Aluva (Ernakulam) by around 9 PM. Since I was expecting a realistic time of 10 pm while booking the tickets, as of now I was hoping that we might reach by 11 PM -12 AM. Check out the timeline. I leave home at 2:30 PM saying my bus is at 3:30 PM and I expect to reach my destination by 9-9:30 PM. Now it’s almost 5 PM and I have not yet started!

At last, the driver-conductor duo decided that it was time to leave by 5 PM and we started and quickly ran into some heavy traffic. The driver was intermittently saying we are so late and I was very strongly getting the urge to flick his nose. You know that thing you want to do to someone that constantly annoys you? As annoying as he was another annoying thing was the traffic. As the bus took a right turn where it should have been left, I knew that I screwed up the booking. This was kind of taking a gamble. If traffic is less then MC road is faster than NH 66 but with traffic, it’s a nightmare. Since I am super lucky all the traffic to Trivandrum was coming via MC road. The two-lane highway was made 4-5 lanes by we the people.

I have to hand some credit to the KSRTC drivers. In many places where I don’t dare in my car this guy was squeezing into a 12-meter-long bus. It’s bad road manners and even worse discipline but as he said he has a schedule to keep (really?). We were encountering 1-2 km long queues of vehicles and making progress at a snail’s pace. People on road were getting agitated, and frustrated and the occasional yelling was also heard. People trying to cut the queue by going on the wrong side were blocked by even angrier drivers from oncoming traffic and we the behemoth skirting the queue through the left shoulder were not helping the matter.

It was 7 PM and we would have travelled hardly 30-40 km. I was consoling myself that once the traffic clears and we reach the wider sections, the notorious superfast speed is going to kick in and I’ll be at my destination albeit 1-2hr delay. Oh, how wrong I was.

Enter the wider sections of the road with less traffic, the bus was not going beyond 60 km/h, I know because I check Google maps. Initially, I thought it was the bus. It was quite an old AL bus which revved hard without any visible output. Then came the lugging by the driver. He was trying to climb uphill roads in 3rd and 4th gear at 20-30 km/h. As I was sitting close I could feel the full effect of engine lugging but the driver was not letting up. It was like he had a personal goal of getting to the top of the climb in whatever gear he was in. This type of driving was the norm till the end of the journey.

At around 9:30 – 10 PM, we stopped somewhere along the way for a dinner break, 10-15 mins and resumed the journey. It was at a bus depot but I can’t quite recall which. The only thing consistent with the driver lugging the engine was he repeating how late we were even though he did not seem interested in doing something about it.

Finally, the bus pulled into Aluva Bus Station at about 1 AM, a spectacular 4 hours late than its actual scheduled time. Now since I screwed up the booking I had to get another bus to get home and since there are no local buses at that ungodly hour I have to take a different long-distance bus to the place/ stop I actually want to go. I don’t know if this is a regular case but all the long-distance buses which were coming there were jam-packed and there were a lot of people at the depot also. Maybe I picked the wrong weekend or it’s my regular luck, I was sure that I won’t be catching a bus for the onward journey so decided to call it a day by booking an Uber. It cost me as much as my bus journey for the short commute home in Uber. The whole affair was a loss of time, loss of money and most importantly loss of the fun factor of the road trip for me.

Kerala SRTC is maybe the most pathetic RTC of them all. They are a horrendous loss-making organisation riddled with union politics and systematic destruction of property by the employees. What prompted me to write this was the recent two incidents which received wide media attention as to the extent of rot in the system.

In the first case, a father, teenage daughter and daughter’s friend were manhandled and beaten up by Kerala SRTC officials in Trivandrum (Kattakada Depot) while they were at the depot for renewing the girl’s student bus pass concession. Apparently, the officials asked for the course certificate of the girl which had already been submitted three months prior. When the father asked if it is really necessary since the course certificate is valid for the entire academic year. The officials took offence to this and started verbally abusing/ being crass with the father and when the exasperated father remarked that these kinds of officials are the bane of Kerala SRTC, the matter escalated and the father-daughter duo was dragged into an adjacent room by the officials and security and beaten up.

Link to news

In the second case, A lady conductor verbally abused and threatened passengers along with the support of the driver. When the issue was raised by a passenger, the conductor-driver duo tried to get a case registered against the person for creating a nuisance under the influence of alcohol and when it fell apart at the police station they tried to get him blamed for halting the trip and get him fined. However, that attempt also failed and the person has formally filed a complaint with the police and the Kerala SRTC CMD.

Link to news

(Watch from 33:10 onwards, apologies as the news are in Malayalam, couldn’t find the English version. Also, the first part of the debate is about the Kattakada Depot issue)

At a time when the organisation is struggling to meet day-to-day operational expenses, these people are eroding whatever little goodwill and sympathy Kerala SRTC has left with the public with these antics.

I know that the two issues I mentioned, in the end, are far more horrible than what I have ever experienced but seeing the trend it’s not too far in future that anyone can be put through an ordeal. So if you have any such personal, horrible experience and feel to share it, please do so.

Here’s what BHPian DustyWanderer had to say on the matter:

I really hate KSRTC. Two times they almost killed me by coming at lightning speed in the opposite lane in a blind corner. When I asked the driver if he does not have common sense and if he would have killed my entire family for his stupidity, he just started using abusive words and left.

The people around us were looking at the incident like this is not new and were not giving any support, I did not have a dashcam at that time and after which I got it.

These careless bus drivers will force you to kill yourself by coming in the opposite lane and give you two choices, either date to go straight at them and if luck is on your side stop in time or the option is to simply go outside the road and be it river or hill, you will be alive based on how you handle the car.

My friend once said that if a KSRTC bus crash into your car, the best you could do is to thrash the bus driver and conductor because even if we go with insurance or case, the max they will give us is 1 lakh.

Here’s what BHPian Nanolover had to say on the matter:

Don’t ever my friends, get the idea of bashing these people. One of my friends did it in a spate of rage (his bike was sideswiped by a drunk KSRTC driver and he and his wife fell off (wife lost consciousness), and the bus sped off without stopping).

In his fit of rage ( understandable), he caught up with the bus and asked him why he did not stop. The driver started abusing him, bashing my friend from his seat and my friend, by now furious, hit back and trashed him proper. While traffic was disrupted and police arrived. The driver somehow managed to escape with the keys to my friend’s bike. Police apparently told my friend to come to the station and will sort it out there. Big mistake! upon reaching the station, how the tables turned!

A friend was slapped with non-bailable charges ( injuring a government official, apparently drivers are government employees) and had to spend 2 days in jail (the second Saturday). The union came behind the driver with support, got him admitted to a hospital and spun the story the other way around (threats, abuse all-inclusive).

Now the case is in court and I don’t know how it is going now, to be honest. A friend has left for Canada and I don’t think he will ever be back here again.

Getting out of their way is the best option. Not worth our time or sanity to teach these folks anything.

Here’s what BHPian surfatwork had to say on the matter:

Kerala SRTC is unreliable, unsafe, unclean, uncomfortable and uncouth. Also more expensive than the neighbouring state’s SRTCS. There, summed it up. Don’t travel by Kerala SRTC.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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