Anil Kumar Sastry

KSRTC is meticulous when it comes to its premium service

BANGALORE: When it comes to pre-departure checks of its fleet, KSRTC can match any leading airline. Every premium bus (Airavata, Mayura and Meghadoota) is subjected to intense checking before it rolls out of the depot.

Three hours before the "take-off," M.M. Somashekhar, a KSRTC driver, starts his routine checks on his Airavata (Volvo) bus at Depot IV near the Kempegowda Bus Station (KBS) in the city.

Once convinced that all is in order, he pulls out of the depot and heads for the bus station. With 24 years of experience behind him, Mr. Somashekhar was picked to steer the Airavata six months ago on the Bangalore-Chikmaglur route. He underwent a week's training at the Volvo facility near Hoskote.

Many may have enjoyed the comforts on Airavata, Mayura and Meghadoota buses. But very few are aware of the efforts put in by the employees to make it a comfortable ride, especially on long-distance routes. "We choose experienced drivers with an accident-free record to drive the Airavata," says Senior Depot Manager B.S. Nagaraja Murthy. Apart from the training, each week two drivers and one conductor undergo refresher courses on passenger hospitality.

No wonder, Airavata drivers have ensured nil-fatality of passengers since the first Volvo was introduced on June 21, 2002, although four of the drivers died in accidents.

Depot IV caters exclusively to 149 premium buses, which include 95 Airavatas, 45 Mayuras, seven Meghadootas and two sleeper coaches, according to KSRTC Managing Director A.P. Joshi. Director (Security and Vigilance) Bhaskar Rao said Airavata has attracted people who normally prefer personal transport. The cost and speed has made Airavata a good alternative to train passengers bound for Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai.

Mr. Murthy said Volvo Corporation had been given the annual maintenance contract for Airavata buses to provide round-the-clock service. The company had trained six KSRTC mechanics.

During breakdown, Volvo engineers try to fix the error and if not possible, KSRTC would provide an alternative vehicle. While drivers are paid Rs. 100 as incentive per trip, conductors get Rs. 75 on Airavata. On long-distance routes, Airavata buses have two drivers.

In normal buses repairs en-route were done by personnel at the nearest depots, the Airavata crew were authorised to fix minor repairs by spot purchases to ensure a smooth ride, said Mr. Murthy. If the premium amenities were absent for a major portion of the journey or a non-Airavata bus was provided as a substitute, KSRTC would give refund of the difference.

Mr. Murthy said depot IV had earned a profit of Rs. 5.84 crore in 2006-07 as against Rs. 1.65 crore in 2005-06.

KSRTC at present has 151 Volvo buses (25 in Mysore and 34 in Mangalore) while the North-West Karnataka Road Transport Corporation has six.