Riding the Chennai Volvo

 the first volvo to arrive, pic credits:unknown

After an episode of having some deadly beach sundal at the marina beach followed by a session of pav bhaji, onion rava and some filter coffee at hot chips in broadway, i felt like treating myself to a little luxury on the way back home. The new air-conditioned volvo buses launched by the mtc in chennai was attracting a lot of public interest within 2 days of their inception and as a die hard public transport traveller, was keen to try it out.

 The Chennai MTC have inducted 10 volvos (B7RLE) into their fast expanding fleet, to become only the third city in the country, after Bangalore and Pune to do  so. Since tuesday i spotted the volvos around 8 times on the 19G 21G E18 and 70 routes. The buses look awesome with their clean white livery, though not as appealing as the red bangalore scheme. But after countless trips on dirty crowded sweaty buses, travelling by AC was a refreshing thought.

I go to broadway bus stand and after querying four clueless officials on the 19G 21G volvo timings, i finally find someone who tells me that there are no more services for the day. I make a beeline for the high court terminus across the road hoping to catch the E18 to SIET. I enter the busy terminus and the volvo is parked there in all its glory, A scrolling digital display and bright white interior lights for all to admire. There was quite a crowd around the bus and i run towards it, hoping its not full yet.

naked kids make merry

The bus is packed with lungi clad people, slum dwellers and naked kids who have decided that the 50 lakh bus is more fun than their corporation playground. Theres a line of slum people outside, coming into the bus in batches of 5, inspecting the vehicle, to check if it meets their standards. The kids try out the soft seats while the women admire their reflection on the shiny windows.

10 minutes later, a smartly dressed gentleman in a cream suit arrives and ushers the unwelcome visitors outside the bus. His badge identifies him as “Rajagopalan – MTC Coach Conductor”. He announces “Minimum fare is Rs 15 and upto 33 to tambaram”. Theres a sudden exodus from the bus and its left with just three passengers.

the spanking new chennai mtc volvo bus

The doors are shut and the ac is switched on insulating us from the busy outside. Old tamil melodies are played and put us in a trance. The ride is as smooth as silk and so silent, its like being in a dream, to watch the usual sight of chennai zoom past through those huge windows. After being used to the regular buses for maybe a bit too long, the volvo was an absolute delight to travel. You feel like royalty, especially when you see the awe in the eyes of people outside.

printed ticket reciept

The conductor comes by, holding a ticket dispensing machine, and i get a printed reciept for my journey. The 10 km ride set me back by 20 bucks, compared to Rs4 by a regular bus and 8 in a deluxe bus. After a few stops, all the seats are occupied and eager travellers resort to standing. The bus has around 35 seats and plenty of room to stand, and the super smooth ride makes standing a viable option. The airconditioning was so effective i had to shift my seat to relieve my numb hands.

the drivers console

The stop arrives in 25 minutes, and i relentfuly make my way to the door. The driver steers the vehicle with ease, his console a dizzying array of lights and digital information. Theres even an lcd display on his side, with feeds from cameras located at the exit and the rear. The bus comes to a halt and at the doors open without a sound. I get down and even before i realise it, its gone.

two line digital display in tamil and english

Bottom line – The volvos are great and well worth the fare. The AC and the smooth ride are reasons enough to use it if it happens to be travelling on your route. The new buses should hopefully shake off that image of buses associated with the lower class. If only more people used public transport, there wouldnt be a traffic problem on our roads. So if comfort was what you were waiting for, these buses score full points.

I’m going to be following the developments of the volvo fleet closely, so look forward to more volvo and mtc related info.

Update: I found some more dinakaran photos thanks to the southern railway forum

chennai mtc volvo from dinakaran

MK Stalin at the wheel of the volvo at a function in koyambedu cmbt

conductor with the ticket printing machine

the bus parked ourside the secretariat at fort st george
the airconditioned chennai bus

UPDATE: Two more routes spotted, A51(High Court- Tambaram East) and 588 (Adyar – Mahabs /ECR)

 More info on routes, timings and future plans 

About planemad


41 responses to “Riding the Chennai Volvo”

  1. Suraksha says :

    haven’t seen these yet! 🙂 but am defi taking a ride when i do!

  2. Navaneethan Santhanam says :

    Oh yes! Finally! I hope the Chennai Projects’ Thread is buzzing over this. You should also, perhaps, post a link in the I & E section’s ‘Indian Transport…. VI’ thread. Good way to receive publicity, too.

  3. Vyaas says :

    I agree…if a good majority used public transport,the traffic will definitely ease…
    Those buses haven’t come to Kilpauk yet, but when they do,I hope i’ve got 30 bucks in my pocket!

  4. planemad says :

    yea, looks like everyone wants to know about the volvos

    19g goes via thiruvanmiyur along sp road and mount road, take a joy ride if you can.

    i hear ya. i find that travel times in a bus and auto dont vary much, thanks to traffic. But again i wouldnt blame the public, since the mtc does a piss poor job of providing route map and other information to commuters

  5. uday says :

    Good one.

    Nice to see Chennai improving. I was eager to know about this when some folks compared this with NJ Transit.

    Looks like its worth the compare. Maintenance is the key differentiator.

    For a populated city like chennai which requires world class public transportation , this is one step forward.

    Hope MTC understands this. Is there a maint contract with the manufacturer for these buses?

  6. gonzodamnpage says :

    wooooooaa i had already ride in one of those (whan i was in manhattan)!!!!!! kinda unconfortable hahahahahaha take a look at my site to see koooooool rides and have ur say on them

  7. Sirpy says :

    Oh, shucks.. Everything has to happen only when I am no there.. Anyway, nice to know Chennai is nicely shaping up its transport..

    But as uday says, maintenance is important.. Six months down the line, we ll check out the standard.. taking a step forward is all good.. Retaining it there and not going back, is tougher..

  8. Suraksha says :

    I rode the 21G to high court today! Yay! Buses be brill! 😀

  9. Karthik.H says :

    I saw one of these on my way to my classes one morning and slowed down like crazy…thank god it was like 6am, a majo traffic jam otherwise…Hoping to take a ride on one of these… 😀

  10. Shivanand says :

    Very nice to see those buses reaching chennai. I know how it was to travel in those mtc buses 3/4 years back!!

    Here’s a pic that I took in bangalore a few months back. Check it out.

  11. T.U. Dinesh says :

    nice update about the bus dude ….

    and what about traveling in “without” ???

  12. planemad says :

    thanks TUD.
    what do you mean “without”? without tickets? without clothes? without what?

  13. E.A.Kumar says :

    After two attempts to try and have a ride in the AC buses introduced in Chennai I finally managed to get into one on the third attempt and it was the 21G service from Broadway to Tambaram. I enjoyed the ride in AC comfort to Tambaram even though it meant shelling out 32 bucks for the trip.On the return I got off at Kotturpuram after which it was terrible to get into a non AC bus and return to my residence at Thoraipakkam and I am eagerly looking forward to the AC bus services on the OMR.This morning I had been to Broadway stand to try and make use of another trip in AC comfort but alas as the timings of the AC bus services have been changed I was denied the opportunity but I sincerely hope to see more AC bus services being operated in Chennai.Can anyone throw any light on the timings of all the Ac bus services being operated and the new routes where these buses are gong to start these AC services in the near future!

  14. planemad says :

    Kumar, those buses are a true delight, with more such buses, travelling in the city wouldnt be a pain anymore.

    Regarding the timings, it doesnt seem that the mtc run a fixed schedule, but will try to get more info on that. Ive also seen the buses on the A51 and 588 (ECR) routes. Although im not sure if these are new buses or if they were taken of from another route on experimental basis.

  15. LVS says :


    MTC does provide such information. Ever cared to search?


  16. planemad says :

    Yep i have, and that site is utterly useless in terms of usability. have you tried to use it?
    find a route between two stops – works only for a direct route
    timings – no
    frequency – no
    map – no
    updated – no
    and many of the routes are messed up and gives an error

    ive been to their hq and spoken with the gm personally, and they themselves dont have that information in their office!

  17. Marc says :

    Implying that public transport should shake off it’s ‘lower class’ image is not a very nice thing to say. All the middle class people have their own vehicles for prestige or convenience so public transport is mostly used by those who can’t afford their own vehicles.

    If more people used the public transport system now there would simply be more people hanging out of windows and buses. My recommendation is that less people start using the system to make things comfortable for everyone else. Jokes apart, the only way to improve the system is to clean buses regularly and increase their frequency. Any other beautification steps can wait.

  18. planemad says :

    Everyone and i mean everyone should use public transport whenever possible, especially while commuting to work. I find that the rich here avoid buses and trains as they dont want to mix with the ‘dirty’ crowd, and would rather travel by autos.

    The reason why its so essential to make use of public transit is that the people are getting richer as time goes by, and cars are becoming even more affordable. So everyone wants a car but theres no space on the road for them. So what happens in the end? Bangalore!

    The sole reason why the bus system is falling behind is that people are not willing to accept higher fares. The MTC is running the fleet on such thin margins that they dont have enough money for insurance, maintainance and upgradation.

    And without that its definitely not going to attract the more affluent folks who CAN afford the luxury but are not willing to travel by bus.

    Its a vicious cycle, that will ultimately turn all the roads into an ocean of private vehicles and endless bitching about the traffic, thats hypocrisy, since you are the one who is responsible for the mess.

  19. Marc says :

    I’ve travelled in buses in Chennai for the 8 years. I depended upon the system to get travel between home and school. Only I know the HOURS I’ve spent waiting for a bus and fighting for standing space in overcrowded buses. I’m in a very good position to judge the transport system.

    They can’t just simply raise the fares. A matter of Rs. 5 is nothing to you but the daily labourer and the economically backward feel every hit. RS. 5 x 2 (twice a day) x 30 (per month) is Rs. 300 which is 10 percent of their salary.

    What is the use of a luxury bus which serves a bus stop every one hour? Completely useless. A dirty rundown bus service that comes every ten minutes. Very usable.

    If you want to attract the well-to-do, increase bus frequency to decrease overcrowding first.

  20. planemad says :

    well, thankfully the mtc are undertaking their biggest fleet augmentation ever. i believe they have already added 900 new buses out of the 1300 planned for the current financial year, which is great. and this process would only continue the next year.

    So it does make sense to experiment with ac services as well, since it is a necissity in this weather. now i agree that only 10 buses are not effective, but its only on an experimental basis

  21. Prakash says :

    Honestly Govt has thrown these luxury buses in to the playin field just to shut the mouths of people who try to make comparisons with other cities. I am pretty sure the number of these buses will not go up anytime soon. These are like ripples caused in water at the drop of a stone, thats all. Soon MTC will go back to their Box types, thats where the money is!!!!! as we continue to vote for these (i dont have words to address these politicians) …. Metro Rail is another farce thats being pulled on us. First one Govt spends tax payer money and prepares feasibility for Metro Rail, the next govt discards it and prepares a feasibility for a Monorail using again – Tax payers money, now the previous govt comes back to power and does another feasibility for a Metro Rail again. Work is supposed to start in a year’s time – If there is change in regime, then i am pretty sure this project will be shelved or dumped or neglected.
    These Idiots also talk about BRTS in Chennai which could only be tried in Mount Road or OMR.
    Guys these problems should not be solved as they serve as fodder for these people to run their Dhandha…..
    Lets learn to be happy with these 10 buses

  22. planemad says :

    So your solution to all the city’s problems is to not do anything?
    Somehow i dont think that is going to help 😛

    The city has seen quite a few positive developments in the last one year, this is something to be welcomed and not shunned, just because a few politicians get their kickbacks from these projects. Lets look at the bigger picture here.

  23. Shrinidhi Hane says :

    Of late these buses are doing good business… I always see them full…

  24. Shrikhanth says :

    A good move to Chennai. I’ve used this service twice. A Good move.

  25. planemad says :

    certainly is, and 10 more are on the way in a couple of months

  26. Bharath says :

    MTC has planned to introduce 20 more volvos in this financial year. Check this out

  27. Shrinidhi Hande says :

    Guys need some info…

    Read recently that MTC has started Volvo buses to Airport. Anyone has more details on this? like what is the route taken by this Airport Volvo? Anyone has a timetable (they dont follow timetables anyway..)

  28. planemad says :

    both the routes are from central to the airport. one via mount road and the other via mylapore

  29. K.Nagarajan says :

    A51 was very popular route and serving the persons from Tambaram East via medavakkam and velachery.Earlier 2 buses were plying in this route and the occupancuy s also high during peaak hours.But somehow one bus was diverted to Airport trips and the other one is not regular.Why this good route is negledcted causing hardship to the regular users.

  30. jaganzara says :

    chennai traffic doesnt matter while we r in volvo bus in chennai….370 avadi to thiruvanmiyur real nice to hang out in bus …..even thought ticket rate are little costiler considering about maintance passenge need to bear it…people in avadi and ambattur are expecting service between avadi to tambaram and avadi to anna squre …

  31. Smaps says :

    hey bitterscotch! Moving to Chennai in just a couple weeks and will be living at IIT. Are you still there? Saw that you posted a bit on the IndiaMike forum. Very useful! Have more questions for you about public transport..ie- from the university to other parts of town, lengths of commute, etc.

    You around that I can email you? Or feel free to send me an email back!

    thanks, katelyn

  32. Arun Kumar says :

    When will the VOLVO buses operate in Villivakkam route

  33. john paul says :

    chennai will be the the next new york

  34. Jim says :

    Where exactly did you see a volvo in Manhattan?

  35. Solomon Kingsley says :

    well… not enough space for the knees, no head rest, horribly reclined seats and a noisy ac engine at the rear!!! this could have been way better…
    at least we have AC…. lol.. just the thing for HOT HOT chennai!!!

  36. Pre-Owned Cars says :

    You actually make it seem so easy along with your presentation bbut I too find
    this magter too be really something that I
    think I would by no means understand. It sor of feels too omplicated
    and extremely wide for me. I’m having a look forward on your subsequent publish, I will try
    to get the hang of it!

  37. thebadscientist47 says :

    Possibly the best service ever provided by the bangalore govt to the public.
    Volvo Bus

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