When the classy sedan refused to start for some inexplicable reason, instead of tinkering under the hood, the driver did what he considered the next best thing. He locked the car and took the master’s kid home by bus. Luckily, there were bus stops very close to both, the master’s house and school. But what he did not anticipate was the little master’s excitement! The kid was ecstatic! The very fact that he could see things from ‘waaaay’ above, the fact that he could select a seat of his choosing (the bus was practically empty) and the fact that the bus itself was soooo big, made his day. On reaching home, the kid’s excitement and sheer joy on having a bus ride actually compelled ‘Madam’ to thank the driver for the initiative rather than admonish him for not taking an auto. Which begs the question; when was the last time any one of us actually got onto the local bus and gazed down from the window?
The ubiquitous RTC Bus is a preferred mode of transport for many. It is a blessing for students and the staff of the many Public Sector industries that are located in the suburbs, especially since they benefit from the special subsided Bus Pass Schemes. But perhaps the biggest benefactors are the farmers of rythu bazaars, who are able to sustain and do business only because they use special RTC services that ferry them between their villages and the city.
The Andhra Pradesh Road Transport Corporation has had a glorious past, running bus services in the State since almost 100 years. It also has the distinction of being the first nationalised road transport service, which happened in the year 1932. It started with 27 buses then and now the overall bus fleet in the state is more than 23,000 buses. Vizag, now being the biggest city in the state, has a vast route network of RTC services. Some of the iconic numbers like Bus No.13, 31, 52B that were used since the beginning of bus services in Vizag, but sadly due to small roads in One Town, Old Post Office, AVN College Down, Relli Veedhi etc, they have now been discontinued or downsized.
The nerve centre of the city in 1960-70 was the main road from the Old Post Office to Poorna market.
Therefore, almost all buses started from Old Post Office and plied up to Gajuwaka via Vizag Harbour, Naval Base, Scindia, Malkapuram, Ship Yard, Caltex (HPCL now) etc. Some routes connected the Old Post Office to Simhachalam via Railway Station, Gnanapuram and Gopalapatnam. There was yet another route, which went to Andhra University via Yellamma Thota (Jagdamba Centre), Governor’s bungalow (circuit house). Some of these went from Jagdamba to KGH and passed through Ramakrishna Beach and Harbour Park to reach the university. There were perhaps only thirteen routes in all in the town of Vizag those days. These buses were privately operated and were maintained spic and span. They had two cleaners stationed at each of the two doors, who called out the names of the stops that the buses covered, helped the passengers especially those with luggage. They also announced the stop, when the bus was nearing it, to prepare the passengers who wished to alight at that stop. On the glass windshield away from the driver, the bus route number was written in large bold letters, which was visible even from a distance. The private bus service was passenger friendly because they knew that their survival depended on the tickets purchased by the people. Nationalisation of the bus transport resulted in quantitative improvement. Large number or routes were opened and the connectivity has gone fourfold. Unlike the old buses operated by private owners, brand new buses were introduced.
Today, the routes in Vizag are very complex and have a very distant network. Bus No.500 takes you from RTC Complex in the city to as far as Anakapalle while Bus No.211 would take you far in the opposite direction, to Vizianagaram. If you would hop on to 300C, you can reach as far as Pendurthi or Chodavaram from the Railway Station. Bus. No.400A has catered to the dockyard and shipyard workers since decades, ferrying them to work from the heart of the city-RTC Complex. One of the last surviving old route buses is 11C which goes from HB Colony via Relli Veedhi, KGH, and AVN College to reach the Old Post office in One Town Area. And it is not just the busy city commuters that these buses cater too, you can visit tourist and religious places like Simhachalam if you’d take Bus No.6 and Kailasagiri if you take Bus No. 10K.
But for a truly enjoyable joy ride, check out Bus No. 999 and Bus No. 900K that will take you to Bheemili, via the scenic Eastern Ghats and Beach Road. It is a remarkably scenic ride, and enjoying the beauty through a 5 ft high bus window gives you a new vantage point at things. So, the next time that old rickety lumbering bus hampers your speed, just remember its taking 60+ people home, in relative safety, comfort and in an affordable way. It’s actually doing good to the environment and economy, commuting more people for less; carpooling at its very best!