Travelling by bus has come a long long way. Gone are the days when the luxuriest bus was a Thiruvalluvar from the TN state. While the local city commute has been made incredibly commuter friendly by the introduction of B7R in all the 3 southern big cities, the long distance travel by bus continued to remain painful. Then came the Volvos adapted for comfortable semi-sleeper travel (remember the KSRTC’s airaavath service between Bangalore and Madras?) it was still no match for even a peaceful sleeper class travel in the local train notwithstanding the cockroaches, rats, and other rodents that we frequently encounter in the sleeper class coaches. So, I always chose the 2nd AC train travel for long distance commutes.
The Indian Railways’s 2nd class AC travel is superior and strikes a pretty good compromise between 3rd AC and 1st AC in terms of cost and comfort. The 2nd class AC offers curtains, removes the clumsy middle-tier, provides bulbs for individual berths for night-time reading, has a longer side-berth, and better AC efficiency by virtue of accommodating fewer passengers. But, this is only on paper. More than 75% of the times I took the 2nd AC coach, the AC was never set at the right temperature – there will always be an odd old couple who’d want the AC turned off or want the temperature increased significantly. And the reading bulbs will most likely be fused out not to mention the stinking toilets. And most importantly, despite the coach you take, even the superfast trains have an average speed of 55 kmph! A typical travel from Hyderabad to Madras (or approximately 670 kilometres) will be anywhere between 13 ½ hours and 20 hours depending on your luck.
In come the sleeper buses. The Volvo semi-sleeper buses, I must admit, are not quite comfortable. With no support to hold my foot firmly, I tend to slide down and down until I wake up and adjust myself. This is hugely uncomfortable. The sleeper buses, on the other hand, allow you to sleep in your natural position (See the pictures – this one was from kesineni travels plying between Hyderabad and Madras). The average cost of travel between the 2 cities is in the ballpart of Rs. 1000/- and has great goodies – A personal 240v AC charging station, personal portable monitor for the movies, and an ear plug for each berth! And a helpful staff who would generally be willing to play the movie you request. This is cheaper than the 2nd AC train ticket, berths nearly as comfortable, reaches the destination faster, leaves a little late in the evening so you can wrap your work day as usual, and has a zillion dropping points (not so many in Madras, though).
The catch? There’s no toilet, which will be a huge turn-off for the passengers of the fairer sex. We men have no problems in shamelessly peeing on the roadside (blame the government for not building public toilets on the GQ).