Thursday, 16 April 2015

Train travel

When we travelled to Kuala Lumpur a few days ago, we had decided to travel by day train from Bukit Mertajam instead of driving down. After all, I was already eligible for a half-fare travel on account of reaching the age when the government terms me as a Senior Citizen, and I intended to make use of this privilege on the public transport systems as much as possible.

In the meantime, we also weren't averse to train travel because nowadays, the journey had become quite smooth on the new electrified double tracks between Butterworth and Kuala Lumpur. Even though the much anticipated ETS service had yet to be implemented, travel time had now been cut down to almost six hours. Six hours is only slightly longer than five hours by car point-to-point and besides which, we were completely relaxed and felt stress-free.

So there we were, at the new Bukit Mertajam railway station at eight o'clock in the morning on the day of travel. The Express Rakyat train arrived promptly at 8.20a.m. and we settled ourselves into the Second Class seats. Comfortable enough, and for once, our seats were facing the right direction in the coach. No incidents along the way and the train pulled into KL Sentral at 2.17p.m.

For our return journey, we had decided to travel by First Class. The train was, however, delayed for one reason or another and we only departed from KL Sentral at 4.57p.m. instead of the originally scheduled 4.05p.m.

Fortunately, the double tracking allowed the train to catch up slightly on the lost time and we arrived at the Bukit Mertajam station at 10.29p.m., a half-hour behind schedule. Despite the delay, we didn't feel at all flustered and settled down into the coach as station after station whizzed by us.

I wrote earlier about the much anticipated ETS service that's going to be introduced later this year. Right now, the service connects Ipoh with KL Sentral and travel time on this sector on the ETS trains takes only two-and-a-half hours at the most.

Recent news reports suggest that the ETS service will be extended to Butterworth and further north to Padang Besar by August or September. I must say that I am really looking forward to this new train service.

If the news reports are correct, the rail journey from Padang Besar to KL Sentral will take four hours and 15 minutes to complete. Presumably from Butterworth or Bukit Mertajam, I would anticipate the journey to Kuala Lumpur may be reduced to a mere three or three-and-a-half hours. Even faster than driving.

As details are still very scanty and there's no official information at all on the Keretapi Tanah Melayu KTM website, we shall have to wait for tiny bits of information to be leaked out until the service is launched.

In the meantime, we are due to go down to Kuala Lumpur again in June. Maybe this time, we'll opt for the Second Class night berths going down and coming back.

P.S. I should add here that while we were in Kuala Lumpur, I decided to go on a little adventure with my wife and we travelled a great deal by the LRT and monorail services.

From KL Sentral, we decided to take the LRT to the Masjid Jamek interchange and then connect to the Chan Sow Lin station as we were staying at the Ibis Styles Hotel, Fraser Business Park. We decided to go to the Pavillion for dinner and so, we took the LRT from Chan Sow Lin station to Hang Tuah station and then changed to the monorail to take us to the Bukit Bintang station. During the two days that we attend the Qi Men Dun Jia seminar at The Gardens in MidValley, we took the LRT from Chan Sow Lin station to KL Sentral and from there, took the KTM Komuter service to the Midvalley station. Every step of the way, I exercised my right to half-fare as a Senior Citizen, and I must say that despite the risks of walking in a near deserted Fraser Business Park at night, we spent only a minimal sum on public transport.

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