… most people in KL and Penang are unaware of the new service or the train schedules and fares.
The new electric trains, which cruise at around 110-140km/hr on the Butterworth to KL route, give commuters a real alternative to their cars, express buses or budget airlines.
The pleasant journey takes less than four hours and costs RM59 each way. This is comparable to an express bus, but the train wins out as there’s no possibility of a traffic jam and it is a lot safer.
The trains have a buffet car serving coffee and malted drinks, sandwiches, and packed fried rice/noodles. They also have restrooms on board. (But KTM should have a contingency plan in case any of the flushes malfuntion, as it did during one of my three trips. It creates queues at the other restrooms.)
The Butterworth-KL sector is part of a longer Padang Besar to Gemas route.
The train leaves Butterworth, heading south to Ipoh anf KL at 7.00am and 5.58pm daily.
From KL Sentral, the electric trains head northwards to Butterworth at 9.30am and 6.35pm.
Unfortunately, these times cannot easily be found on the KTM website. Go on, have a look at the KTM website and see if you can find the schedule easily.
This must be KTM’s best kept secret. It is almost as if KTM is discouraging people from finding out the actually times of this key sector! I have lost track of the number of people asking me for the times and the fares.
After much browsing, I finally found the train schedule, so I will do KTM a favour and reproduce it here. Enjoy.
You can find the train fares here.
Even without the publicity, the trains are usually full, and tickets have to be booked well in advance. I chatted with a makcik, after helping her place her bags in the overhead compartment. A retired bank employee, she spoke excellent English and raved about how convenient the new service in the north was. She had hopped on the train in Taiping and was on her way to see her youngest son and his family, who would be waiting for her in Butterworth.
You have to book a few days in advance if you want to get your preferred dates and times.
You can buy your ticket at KL Sentral on the left side once you enter the front entrance. In Penang, you can book your ticket at the Butterworth railway station or in George Town, just outside the ferry terminal near the row of stalls, in between the two large Rapid Penang bus terminals.
Or you may phone toll-free 1300 88 5862 to make an advance booking at least three days before your travel date. But you would have to collect your ticket and make payment the day before your travel date.
You can also buy your ticket online via the KTM website.
KTM can easily triple the frequency from two to six trips a day. I believe they will be moving in that direction with more locomotives due to arrive next year. Before long, there could be a train running every couple of hours, which would be brilliant.
With enough publicity, I am sure the trains will be heavily patronised. As the trains are already full most of the time and while waiting for new locomotives to arrive, maybe KTM feels it doesn’t need the extra publicity just yet.
This service should have been launched in the 1980s – but back then Mahathir was obsessed with Proton and money-spinning tolled highways, and the train services were neglected and stuck in a time warp – until now.
Let’s hope the removal of subsidies for train services next year won’t affect the fares for the electric trains, which are more friendly to the environment in these days of climate change. By right, train services should be subsidised as this mode of public transport is a good way of unclogging our highways and roads.
If we expand this electric train service, we can ditch the luxury of a RM35bn high-speed train service. Is that why there is so little publicity about the existing new electric train service? If more people know about electric trains already running, they will ask why we need another expensive high-speed train service.
If KTM can introduce an inter-city train service with minimum stops using these electric trains, then Butterworth to KL in three and a half hours is certainly possible. That is plenty fast enough for now.
Under no circumstances should KTM now be privatised to some crony. If managed right, this electric train service could be a lucrative source of revenue for KTM.
So ditch your cars for inter-city travel and save on petrol and highway tolls. Catch the train, beat the traffic jams and arrive at your destination fresh and relaxed.