Weekends are the days when I tend to sleep the least! Not that I am a party animal, I am not even remotely associated to it.
I had to meet a couple of prospects this Friday. Once I wound up with them I caught up with Dipsikha at Bandra. We were keen on getting into the new NMMT Volvo bus service from Bandra to CBD Belapur. My association with Volvo buses started during my days in Bangalore. My first opportunity was a trip from Cochin to Calucut in a Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation Volvo, better known as “Airavat” meaning Elephant in many Indian languages. The one in which I had traveled was a B7R meant for long distance travels. Since then I have been a huge fan of Volvo buses.
I have travelled in the BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) Volvo city buses whenever possible.
Now coming back to our NMMT Volvo : CBD Belapur – Bandra – CBD Belapur. These are the B7Rs used by BMTC also. For the first time the digital route boards were sported in Mumbai, we were waiting for the CBD Vovlo at Bandra west but were surprised to see our new NMMT bus with a digital board! I asked the driver if the “AC Gaadi” will arrive anytime soon and he replied 10 mins. Alright, we decided to wait, after a 30 mins wait the gleaming Red NMMT Volvo arrived! We got into it and sat at a very comfortable seat at the left of the bus under the AC vents.
Now the real game started! As not many people were aware of the service and as BEST (Brihan Mumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking) hadn’t allowed NMMT to use their Depot adjacent to Bandra station, our bus was waited outside the station for a while. There was a conductor, three! Yea Three on-board ticket inspectors, and of course… a driver. These guys decided to turn off the AC till more passengers got in, oops… forgot to tell that there were only 4 passengers who had boarded at the station. I had to tell the conductor to turn on the AC who did it after saying that they were planning to turn the AC on after the first stop!! How ridiculous… But its alright, a Volvo bus has always an exceptional place in my heart! So… Our journey resumed, (it had been almost 10 mins had we hadn’t even reached Lucky Junction, about 500 meters from the station). The conductor and the ticket inspectors where crying “Dharavi, Sion, Chembur, Vashi, CBD Belapur!!”, they were trying to get as many passengers on board as possible. It was very funny since these guys barely stop for a late commuter who might be running towards a bus-stop from where the bus might have just started. Finally with about 7 to 8 passengers on-board, we arrived at Kalanager stop. Many people were gazing at the bus… Probably wondering at the looks of the bus or at the digital display boards or may be even at NMMT wondering what it stands for (Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation Transportation). The conductor and the ticket inspectors were crying the destination and route of the buses wherever it stopped. At one of the stops one of the inspectors jested to the other one saying, “Shout Goa! People might get in!”
This attitude of “customer service” is, I am sure, going to last only for a few day untill people are well aware of this service. Once people start to wait and rush for the bus, even these NMMT drivers and conductors will act like their counterparts in BEST who, once the bus leaves a stop, don’t even care to look at a person who is knocking on the doors to get into the buses. By the way, BEST has these Chinese made buses
We left Kalanagar and cruised through Dharavi and then stopped at Sion, by this time the seats were pretty much occupied. There were many who would ask the price of the ticket and back away, but its always ones personal choice when it comes to expenditure.
Anyway, the bus was very nice, and the suspension (since its a Volvo) was as nice as in the well maintained ones. The step-less entry and low floor are a boon to everyone, especially senior citizens, children, people with disability and pregnant women, The bus was travelling quite fast but the ride was very comfortable. I would suggest you take a ride in the ST, BEST and then a Volvo along the road from Sion to Suman Nagar Junction and feel the difference!
They have started 6 Volvos from CBD to Bandra, planning to get more buses soon, the fare on the route is Rs 45. Bandra to Vashi is about Rs 15 in a regular BEST and Rs 28 in the Volvo. The buses are scheduled to ply at an interval of 18 minutes. The last bus from Bandra is at 2100 hrs as of today.
My major concerns about these buses is about its maintenance, handling in the traffic and the cleanliness. The very next day when we travelled from Vashi to Sion in the Volvo the floor had pieces of ticket and dirt strewn around. A really sorry state. Having mentioned about the low ground clearance of the bus, the deep potholes can damange the bottom of the bus and when the roads are water logged, the water might just slip into the bus!
I’d rather be optimistic about the service. As of now… I am looking forward to unwind in the bus on trip to Vashi from Bandra on weekends.
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