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Old 22nd April 2012, 08:53   #1651
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Default MegaBus from Chicago to Columbus and Back

A bus journey in the USA. Not many prefer travelling by bus here, despite being so comfortable and cheaper than air and rail travel...

My pickup point was at a little far away from my Hotel, so I took a bus to the airport, then went to the Metra Station (the US parlance for our Metro Rail) and reached the pick up point at 9:30pm. I saw a couple of buses parked there, with people loading their luggage in the luggage compartment. My bus was yet to come. Walked around the buses there, to see how they are. And by then, my bus arrived:

Intercity Bus travel reviews-140420121975.jpg

Intercity Bus travel reviews-140420121977.jpg

It was a VanHool TD925 double-decker coach, with a seating capacity of 80: 58 in the upper deck and 22 in the lower deck.

In around 25 minutes, everyone boarded the bus and it started rolling at 10:10pm, 10 minutes behind schedule. For the 400 miles (~600km) journey, the bus was to take 8 hours, with 2 cities to cross in between - Indianapolis (~200miles from Chicago) and Cincinnati (100miles away from Indianapolis and Columbus). There were two drivers, a pleasant and cordial gentleman and a head-mistress like lady, who was not so friendly to talk to. The lady was at the wheel when the bus started, until the first break, which was a continuous 200miles drive on the freeway. And from Indianapolis, she retired to sleep.

After a good sleep, I woke up to the driver's cheerful voice that announced the bus' arrival at Columbus. Got down at 6:45am on the day of Vishu. It was a quiet, and comfortable journey. But I couldn't see the countryside at all, since it was an overnight trip. On my return, I had booked their day service on sunday.

It was another bus, but identical to the one that took me to Columbus. Started at 11 o'clock in the morning, after a delay of 20minutes. There was only one driver, a friendly Afro-American guy. There was a lunch break midway between Cincinnati and Indianapolis, at a McDonald's attached to a fuel station. 30min. There was heavy traffic on the freeway, and the bus was not designed to go faster than 70mph because of the height. Still he managed to take us to Chicago by 6pm. Since I was sitting in the upper deck, I could see the road and the sides very clearly. There was a short break some 100miles away from Indianapolis, when the driver said he felt a bit tired. On asking, he said he was running another service the previous day and managed to get only 5 hours of rest, while he was supposed to have at least 6 hours. I must appreciate the skills of that gentleman and the design of the bus, because despite the heavy traffic and bursts of higher speed, I didn't feel any roll or G-forces inside the bus. I was sitting on the upper deck, where all these can be felt more appreciably.

About the bus: It was an airconditioned, low-floor double-decker multi-axle bus. Every seat had seat belts, and everyone had access to a charging point and there was a reading lamp too. A free Wi-Fi hotspot was made available in the bus, so I was able to track my location through maps without paying for data on my Bangalore number that was on roaming. The highlight was a chemical toilet, similar to the ones found in airplanes - much better than what was there in Olivea of Bangalore.

There were two stairs to get onto the top deck, one at the front, right opposite to the driver seat, and the other one, just ahead of the first rear axle. The portion of the lower deck behind the lower deck was used as the luggage hold. Whatever luggage space is lost by making it a low-floor bus, has been made up for, by using the portion above the engine - they saved the extra cost of noise insulation over the engine compartment and isolated the passenger saloon at the same time.

Exteriors of the bus:

Intercity Bus travel reviews-150420121994.jpg

Notice the tail lamps, they're the same ones found in Mark-III Volvo B7Rs that we have here.

Intercity Bus travel reviews-150420121993.jpg

Intercity Bus travel reviews-150420121995.jpg

Firestone FS400 22.5" radials

The driver seat:

Intercity Bus travel reviews-150420121991.jpg

Pneumatically adjustable, Recaro made seat. All controls within reach - no need to move from the driving position. Excellent ergonomics. Notice the Drive Selector buttons on the left side - yes, it's got an Allison automatic. The two red buttons seen on the centre console are to open and close the two doors. The red sticker reads 13.2" height, to warn the driver before he thinks of pressing the A-pedal too hard.

Intercity Bus travel reviews-150420121992.jpg

The entertainment system as well as PA system controls fixed on the ceiling.

Intercity Bus travel reviews-150420121996.jpg


Toilet, and access to the luggage compartment from inside. The rear stairs can also be seen.

Specifications of the bus:

Dimensions (L x W x H): 44' (13,411 mm) x 102" (2,590mm) x 13.2" (4,023mm)
Turning radius: 12,000 mm
Gross Vehicle Weight: 25.9 Tonnes
Engine: Cummins ISX12 11.9L 6 cyl with 400hp output and 1650 N-m torque
Transmission: Allison B500R 6-speed automatic with two-speed fan clutch
Brakes: Disc brakes on all wheels
Safety: ABS, Automatic Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control, Tyre monitoring system as standard
Tag axle unloading system (Read more about it here)
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Old 22nd April 2012, 09:01   #1652
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Default Re: Intercity Bus travel reviews

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sridhar K View Post
...
2) The bus no longer runs on Chennai OMR. It starts from Radha regent in Arumbakkam and stops at HSR layout.
It's been like that since last year

Quote:
3) To cab arranged for pick up and drop (infer that they were doing it earlier)
When travelled in October last year, they didn't have a pickup and drop facility
Quote:
7) Seats were excellent (only 24 seats in 2 X 1 configuration )
They have to be! They're the same as the business-class seats in aircrafts

Quote:
3) Was sitting on last but one seat and the ride quality was nothing great to write about. Felt that Single axle volvos from KPN /Rathimeena that I had traveled earlier had better ride.
That's one gripe even I had! Wonder when they'll tweak the air suspension for better comfort.

Quote:
2) Monitor, head phones were old. The head phones were not fitting onto the slots
I found the headphones themselves bad. And their systems were not properly shielded, giving a very bad quality audio output.
Quote:
3) No wifi
They would've offered you a Tata Photon+ or something instead. But to be honest, that thingy is no match for the Wi-Fi while it works.

Did you take the overnight service, or the early morning service?
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Old 22nd April 2012, 11:04   #1653
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Default Re: MegaBus from Chicago to Columbus and Back

Quote:
Originally Posted by silversteed View Post
A bus journey in the USA. Not many prefer travelling by bus here, despite being so comfortable and cheaper than air and rail travel...
The roads are very much inviting to drive/travel in the USA I went on a China Bus from Dayton to NewYork during the New Year's eve. Couldn't get any cheap filghts and the travel time was mentioned as close to 12 hours. Thought I would give it a try.

It cost me $30 (yes only $30) and the bus dropped me at Canal St half hour before schedule even though he arrive late from Cincy and stopped for a long time to pick up passengers at Columbus.

The bus was nothing to write about, it was driven by a person of Chinese origin, had around 60 seats in a double axle bus. Had a toilet too which didn't smell bad even though I was almost right besides it. It was air conditioned.

The seats are nothing like the buses in India, it is cramped and the seat recliners are of no use since the one behind you will complain if you try to recline it to a comfortable level. But it should be OK for an average built person.

The drive was awesome though and the bus maintained good speeds as permitted on the highway and was driven very well without any madness.

I boarded the bus at 11:30PM and reached Columbus by 1AM I believe. And we took off at 1:30 and reached New York by 9:15 in the morning.

Had the only break in Sunoco station. Had a good sleep even though the space was limited.

Overall, it was a cheap and a good alternative to the Greyhounds ($175/18+ hours)/flight (4 -5 hrs/$200+) /Amtrak (18 hrs/$150+).
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Old 22nd April 2012, 12:42   #1654
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Default Re: MegaBus from Chicago to Columbus and Back

Quote:
Originally Posted by silversteed View Post
...
That's one gripe even I had! Wonder when they'll tweak the air suspension for better comfort.....
No, that's not easy to improve the bound and rebound capability of air suspension. In fact they are much strained in the case of Olivea's due to higher GVW.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SchumiFan View Post
...
The seats are nothing like the buses in India, it is cramped and the seat recliners are of no use since the one behind you will complain if you try to recline it to a comfortable level. But it should be OK for an average built person......
Nice review Schumi. Yes, the seat pitch in India is one of the largest and better than most part of the world. Coupled with calf support makes a better journey even in a Non AC buses.
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Old 22nd April 2012, 13:52   #1655
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Default Re: Intercity Bus travel reviews

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Originally Posted by silversteed View Post
They would've offered you a Tata Photon+ or something instead. But to be honest, that thingy is no match for the Wi-Fi while it works.

Did you take the overnight service, or the early morning service?
I took the 6:00 PM service on my onward trip and returned on the early morning service 6:30 AM. On Wifi, I did not ask them as I had a Tata Photon myself.
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Old 22nd April 2012, 19:50   #1656
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Default Re: MegaBus from Chicago to Columbus and Back

Quote:
Originally Posted by SchumiFan View Post
The seats are nothing like the buses in India, it is cramped and the seat recliners are of no use since the one behind you will complain if you try to recline it to a comfortable level. But it should be OK for an average built person.
Missed to write about this. It was the same case with me too.

Quote:
Overall, it was a cheap and a good alternative to the Greyhounds ($175/18+ hours)/flight (4 -5 hrs/$200+) /Amtrak (18 hrs/$150+).
Greyhound charges you more because it takes a way longer route. Chicago to Columbus cost me $51 and 8 hours in MegaBus, while Greyhound was charging $120 and the travel time mentioned was 12 hours. I saw too many boarding points and drop off points. And it was a 60 seater bus, like you mentioned.
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Old 23rd April 2012, 10:32   #1657
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Default Re: Intercity Bus travel reviews

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Originally Posted by TKMCE View Post
Also please do post the feedback here post his travel for the benefit of other members as there are very few reviews on BLR- BOM route on this thread.
He was busy till noon and couldn't take the VRL. Booked for SRS which left Anand Rao circle exactly at 2.30pm. He reached Vashi around 6am and his guest house at Dadar by 7am. He said the travel was good and pleasant. I will try to post more details once he is back.
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Old 23rd April 2012, 18:14   #1658
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Default Re: Intercity Bus travel reviews

The SRS service on BLR BOM is I think run jointly with Southern Travels which is one of the oldest operators along with Sharma on the route. I have seen their Multi Axles Volvos passing by at Mumbai and from outside the buses looked well maintained and clean. All the same 16 hours (assuming 6.30 arrival at Sion) is very good at all costs.
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Old 23rd April 2012, 21:07   #1659
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Default Re: Intercity Bus travel reviews

Yes, it is a Southern SRS service. It reached Hubli at 10pm thats what I heard from him. It also compromised last row seats to accommodate a bed for the spare driver.
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Old 24th April 2012, 10:38   #1660
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Default Re: Intercity Bus travel reviews

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Originally Posted by TKMCE View Post
The SRS service on BLR BOM is I think run jointly with Southern Travels which is one of the oldest operators along with Sharma on the route.
Not anymore. SRS is handling the services on themselves now. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that Southern has tied up with Neeta now. SRS bought out all the buses that were marked "Southern SRS", and they buses have been repainted in the characteristic SRS livery (White and Yellow).
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Old 24th April 2012, 12:11   #1661
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Default Re: Intercity Bus travel reviews

VRL really seems to be stretching the limits of Indian Bus ride. There are 3 Volvo Multiaxle schedules on the Bangalore - Ahmedabad route. This may probably be the longest route done in the Intercity Bus routes. Hats off to them.
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Old 24th April 2012, 13:57   #1662
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Default Re: Intercity Bus travel reviews

The Bangalore Ahmedabad service is run on the following route Bangalore - Hubli-Pune-Mumbai-Surat-Baroda-Ahmedabad.

With a robust booking system which VRL has, it is not too difficult to make money on the route as there are lot of opportunities for enroute bookings. For instance the first departure - 8 AM from Bangalore can cater to both Bangalore -Pune day pax as well as overnight Pune-Baroda or Pune -Ahmedabad pax.

MSRTC and Neeta both run Pune - Udaipur Volvos via the same route (Mumbai/Surat/Baroda/Ahmedabad), so theoretically VRL can even run a Bangalore Udaipur service

Last edited by TKMCE : 24th April 2012 at 13:58.
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Old 24th April 2012, 16:17   #1663
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Default Re: MegaBus from Chicago to Columbus and Back

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Originally Posted by silversteed View Post
The red sticker reads 13.2" height, to warn the driver before he thinks of pressing the A-pedal too hard.
Actually the red sticker is to remind the driver about the height of the bus primarily from a underpass perspective. On most of the US roads, before you approach an underpass you would have a board that mentions the height of the same.
Having the height of the bus handy will help a driver navigate the underpass (from a height perspective) expecially in unknown areas as these drivers drive a varity of buses hence sometimes might have some confusion on the exact height of the bus.

Last edited by f1fan : 24th April 2012 at 16:20.
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Old 4th May 2012, 07:55   #1664
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Default Re: Intercity Bus travel reviews

Was having a tough time waiting for the 11:30 pm Coimbatore Volvo Multiaxle at Bommanahalli KPN office. About 12 buses were idling(it was for atleast 30-45 minutes) and my bus was parked at the last. There was a lag of one hour for each bus and announcement was not proper either.
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Old 4th May 2012, 11:51   #1665
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Default Re: Intercity Bus travel reviews

Traveled by the new Viji-Yathra Volvo Multi-Axle (Bangalore-Pathanamthitta, via Ernakulam, Kottayam) service yesterday. A short review:

The bus was new (about 34000kms on the odo). The bus came to Madiwala at around 2010hrs. The traffic police has made the area strictly "No-Parking". They were charging most private vehicles parked in the area (between Madiwala Ayyappa Temple/MAS Hotel to St. Johns Signal). Cops were not letting buses to stop on the road as well (Kallada buses were being parked at their will though).

Most Kerala bound buses (Viji/SRM/Shama/Golden/Ashoka/PK etc) now park their bus inside the defunct "Friends petrol pump", and pick-up passengers from there. The petrol pump now resembles a bus station, and the area was chock-a-block with buses. My bus (KA-01-AB-1767) was stuck in the block was the bus was parked with just its head inside. We remained in that position for quite a long time. The bus finally got into the bus station, and was properly parked. We started moving out at 2054 (Scheduled time: 2030hrs).

The bus had 100% bookings. Some 40~44 passengers got in at Madiwala itself (the bus came empty to the pick-up point), while the rest got in at Electronic City and Chandapura. The bus had its boot full of parcels - mostly flowers. The driver was fast right from the word "Go" - he was hitting triple digit speeds in no time. The driving style was not really great - he did a couple of "z" maneuvers (Zig-zag overtakes) at high speeds. The driver calmed down after entering into TN.

There were two drivers and one Cleaner - the crew were all Malayalees. It seems Viji owns the buses, and Yathra operates them. The bus, thankfully, did not take any break for dinner (unlike KaSRTC). The drive was swift - but, rash at times. I slept off after we crossed Krishnagiri, and woke up when the bus took that circular approach to the Salem flyover at high speed. I slept off after we entered the highway, and woke up just as the bus pulled into a fuel station at Perundurai (the same pump used by Kallada) - 0134hrs.

The bus was ready to leave at 0143hrs, after taking in 225lts of diesel. That was too quick - the crew just headed to the toilet in "shifts", and had tea in "shifts" again. The same driver who drove from Bangalore took over from Perundurai again. This chap was fast - he picks up speed very quickly and makes quite a lot of sudden turns. The bus turned left at Chengampally, and took the route via Tiruppur-Palladam and exited on the Coimbatore bypass. I did not see any other operator on the way. The bus stopped at Mannuthy at around 0445 and left after 5 minutes - a couple of passengers got off, and the parcels were unloaded. This bus does not enter Thrissur town, and hence I continued towards Ernakulam in the same bus.

We had a brief halt at Angamaly (someone alighted). I got off at Aluva, at 0530hrs. Getting off at Aluva was a quick decision - I actually got up from my seat after the bus reached Aluva. I took a KSRTC bus from Aluva to reach my home in Kodungallur, and reached home by 0700hrs.

Overall: The driving was not great - not very dangerous as well. The bus had 100% load - I was, in fact, on the 11th row of the 12-row bus! It was the engine's sound that played lullaby throughout the night.

This bus took 4h39m to cover 278.7 kms from Madivala to Perundurai. Last month, when traveling on a Kallada B9R, it took 4h23m for the same distance - the Kallada guy was much safer, and did less of those heroic twists and turns. Overall, the Viji guy took 7h46m for Madiwala-Mannuthy, and 8h36m for Madiwala-Aluva. The bus could have done the same timings with less riskier driving.

Nevertheless, the bus was good, and the service is recommended for those looking at reaching Ernakulam very early in the morning.

Edit: This was the bus: (This photo was taken last month)
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Last edited by binaiks : 4th May 2012 at 11:53.
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