The new electric train for KL-Ipoh line

Every week I commute between Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Tronoh for work. My family is in KL, but because of work, I travel every Friday evening and either Sunday evening or early Monday morning, straight to work. Typical journey time: 2.5 hours.

I normally drive, but sometimes I take the public transport. Sometimes I take the express buses, but normally I would take the transit train between KL sentral and Batu Gajah, which is about 15 km from my office.

Intercity train transportation used to be not an option, but since the double-tracking project to upgrade the train line in the west coast of peninsular Malaysia completed (at least between KL and Ipoh anyway), train travel is very much better than it was before.

Thanks to Tun Dr Mahathir for envisioning it. The project itself costs a bom but I think it’s worth every cent.

Since last week I was considering to take leave on Friday this week. I don’t know why, but I felt like spending “puasa” with my family in KL a bit earlier. On the Sunday evening the week before, I went to Batu Gajah to buy some dates (kurma) for my sister-in-law who is currently studying in Korea, so I went to BG train station to check out the tickets. Her colleague just happened to visit her in Korea the following week.

Unfortunately, the ticket counter was closed. It only opens at 8:00 am until 6:00 pm Monday through Friday. It’s not open on weekends.

Well, fine. I wish the public transport in Malaysia were like that in Japan, but hey it’s much better today than a few years ago before I went to Japan for my PhD. Btw, that’s how I got to know a thing or two about “efficient public transportation”, while I was residing in Nara for 3.5 years.

So, on Monday afternoon this week, I decided to call KTM (the train company) phone booking center and made a booking for the train on Thursday evening and return to BG on Sunday evening. The operator informed me that the ticket must be collected by Thursday afternoon; a few hours before the scheduled train.

I used to buy train tickets through the onllne portal offered by KTM. It was not extremely efficient, but the website was convenient. I can just print the purchased tickets, without having to drive over 30km for the return trip between Tronoh and BG train station.

Even with my 12km/liter rather-fuel-efficient Honda accord which I brought back from Japan using student AP, that easily would cost me about RM1.85 /liter x (30 km / 12 km/liter) = RM4.60. Driving to the station is just not worth it. That’s why I always purchased online.

Unfortunately, currently KTM decided to upgrade their web portal so the online ticket is not available at least until the middle of September according to the website.

I just don’t understand why they have to close the online portal while doing the development. No other company in the world does that.

They should develop the new portal on a different platform while keeping the existing portal online. Only when the new portal completes then the migration should take place. That’s common sense.

It should not take more than a few hours to do the migration. Any IT guy should know that. I guess KTM is in the business of trains…not web portal. J That’s why they are taking more than a month to work on the upgrade, while I have to spend RM4.60 per trip to buy the ticket at the counter. It makes me wonder. This does not make sense. Only this part of this whole electric train story.

So, I had no choice but to drive again to the BG train station to collect the tickets that I had booked over the phone. During the lunch time today, I decided to drive from office to BG train station to get the ticket.

There were two ticket counters. Used to be just one counter. I normally go for the counter on the left. Today, the counter on the right has a sign that says “CURRENT BOOKING ONLY” in big black capital letters right next to the window. I had no idea that the new counter is meant for the KTM’s new ETS. I’m not really sure what the acronym stands for, but probably it’s Electric Train System.

I was surprised, but it was not a bad surprised. About a month before that, as I was getting off the KL-BG locomotive train at the BG station, I saw the new electric train making test rounds. I did not know when they were going to start operation.

So today as I was purchasing the ticket I thought, “they must have begun operation already”. I had no idea that the train was to begin operation this very day. I never bothered to ask.

Anyway, RM29 per trip for the new electric train is not much different from the RM21 second class ticket on the locomotive train which normally takes 2 hours and 45 minutes. Btw, the economy class ticket on the locomotive train is RM12 only. This ETS train will take 2 hours and 5 minutes according to the ticket attendant.

So I decided to buy the RM29 ticket for ETS. It would be my first time riding the ETS. There is only one type of ticket for the ETS train, unlike the 3-class tickets for the old locomotive trains.

At about 6:05 pm after work today, I left office with my car to the BG train station and parked the car at the station. As I went into the station, I saw a poster that announced ETS operation was to start operation on 12 August 2010. “Wow! I’m going to be riding the new electric train on the launching day. What a surprise.”

Now I’m in my 7A seat in coach A (the rear most car) at 8:44 pm blogging about my first ride on ETS. The screen shows the train speed is 142 km/hr, the normal cruising speed. I think it’s about to make the approach to the Kuala Lumpur station, one stop before the KL Sentral station….my destination.

Oopss my mistake…it’s just slowing down at the Batu Caves station. What? Batu Caves? Since when does this train pass by Batu Caves? Did I see wrong? I heard the Batu Caves line is now open…but this is a different line. Anyway, just a bit more to go before the KL Sentral.

The journey today was delayed by about 6-7 minutes. Two or three times the train stopped in the middle of the track. I was wondering why. At one of those unscheduled stops, the driver announced that they were waiting for some kind of right-of-way.

Okay, I’m gonna conclude now. In conclusion, I think KTM’s decision to upgrade its train fleet is a very good move. It would definitely encourage more usage of public transportation by the Malaysian population.

On the bright side, the train is a bit more informative. Proper announcement of the next station that it will stop, with automatic lady-voice announcement.

The TV screen by the exit door also displays the name of the station, the current time, as well as the current speed. The first time that I see it. I never saw the same thing in Japan.

We need to start being more like the Japanese, at least when it comes to the public transportation.



One Comment to “The new electric train for KL-Ipoh line”

  1. Update: As of today, the online ticketing system is now up and running. I just bought a ticket like 10 minutes ago. I’m not sure when exactly the new system went online, but it is much better and more user friendly than its predecessor.

    I’m excited that I can buy the tickets online once again, so I don’t have to waste RM4.60++ every time I need to buy the tickets.

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