KTM Modernization?

TRANSIT took note of this article about the ‘modernization drive’ of KTM Berhad, which includes the extension of the Komuter service from Sentul to Batu Caves, double tracking and electrification, higher speed railway services between KL and Ipoh and other amenities.

KTMB for comfort, convenience, speed (The Star)
Thursday September 10, 2009
By LESTER KONG

KTM Berhad has its origins in Malaysia’s pre-independence era but it has come a long way since then as one of the country’s most well-known institutions.

In its modernisation drive, KTM Berhad or known as KTMB in short, has constantly upgraded itself to be a more convenient, timely and comfortable mode of transport for its customers.

KTMB President Dr Aminuddin Adnan said the railway company was proud to have even more tricks up its sleeve as part of its transformation and modernisation drive to attract more passengers to enjoy train rides in Malaysia.

Future plans: An artist’s impression of the future Ipoh-Padang Besar station along the Ipoh-Seremban route - Image courtesy of The Star & KTMB
Future plans: An artist’s impression of the future Ipoh-Padang Besar station along the Ipoh-Seremban route - Image courtesy of The Star & KTMB.

[TRANSIT: Actually, we have no idea what the copywriter means here. However, we do know that Padang Besar is north and Seremban is south”]

Buying KTMB tickets will be made easier with several key ticketing services already in place, he said.He said the e-Ticket system allows passengers travelling on board the KTM Intercity to buy their tickets online via KTMB’s website.

By logging on to KTMB’s website, www.ktmb.com.my, passengers can buy their tickets from any location without having to go the ticket counter.

“Ticket purchase via online is proven to be more convenient, safe and may be carried out anywhere, anytime and may be made using either VISA or MasterCard.

“This hassle-free transaction is in line with the development of our online technology and with the new cashless era.

KTM is also part of the e-KL project developed by MAMPU, where passengers can send SMS messages to 15888 to check on KTM Intercity timetable, fare and station location.

Apart from that, KTM Intercity passengers can also book their tickets via their mobile phone through KTMB’s SMS service.

“KTM Intercity passengers can also book their tickets via their mobile phone through Short Messaging Service (SMS).

“This is a hassle-free ticket reservation system. Passengers do not have to call our stations or Call Centre. They can just send SMS, follow the instructions and collect their tickets later at a more convenient time,” he said. [TRANSIT: We will try to find out more about this.]

At the moment, Dr Aminuddin said, SMS booking can be used to book economy class to the East Coast and Northern region and Second Class to the Southern Region.

He said passengers only need to send the SMS to 32425. Each transaction will be charged RM0.50.

“Passengers may also purchase KTM Intercity tickets via the OnePay system available at Petronas Mesra outlets and OnePay terminals nationwide.

“The receipt printed upon purchase is considered a valid ticket and may be used for travel.

“This is another convenience brought by KTMB for passengers, especially those who are located quite far from the railway station and do not have access to the internet,” he said, adding that a full list of participating Petronas Mesra Stations and OnePay Kiosks can be found at KTMB’s website.

Dr Aminuddin said KTMB has a new toy in its ranks in the form of five new sets of electric trains that promises to provide a faster and more comfortable ride. [TRANSIT: Shame! It’s not a toy, it is a high tech piece of transportation technology! And there should be 6 trains!]

All aboard!: KTMB’s new Electric Train Set is capable of speeds up to 140kmh.
Future plans: An artist’s impression of the future Ipoh-Padang Besar station along the Ipoh-Seremban route - Image courtesy of The Star & KTMB.

[TRANSIT: The above  image was drawn by someone we know.]

“With a speed of 140km/h, the new trains are expected to offer a smoother and speedier ride on new tracks.

“Passengers would be able to reach Seremban from Ipoh and vice-versa in about three hours.

“Other features including brand new coaches that are complete with unisex toilets, disabled-friendly washrooms, a cafeteria and power sockets for those working on the go”.

“With the completion of this track, we are enabling Ipoh residents to commute to Kuala Lumpur on a daily basis, a few times day. [TRANSIT: Sure, if you have nothing to do you could presumably ride back-and-forth between Ipoh and Seremban, up to 6 times (3 trips each way)]

“In fact, in the future, it is possible for Ipoh residents to stay in Ipoh and work in Kuala Lumpur or even down to Seremban, catching the morning and late evening train to go and come back from work,” he said. [TRANSIT: Ah, the dream of long-distance daily commuting. Sorry, it doesnt happen. But weekend commuting (stay in KL for the week & go back home friday evening) will definitely be improved!]

He said the first set of trains is expected to be delivered by December 2009 and KTMB plans to start the service by March 2010. [TRANSIT: Just for your information, the double tracking and electrification to Ipoh finished almost 2 years ago!]

“This is an important route as it will connect passengers to a wide variety of interconnected prime networks.“This new service will provide seamless connectivity between KTM Berhad and Kuala Lumpur’s other important terminals such as the LCCT (via Nilai Station) and KLIA (via Bandar Tasik Selatan and KL Sentral stations),” he said.

Meanwhile, he said the Ipoh-Padang Besar and Seremban-Gemas electrified double tracking projects are well underway and are expected to be completed by 2013.

“These routes consist of a number of stations with well-equipped facilities, such as facilities for the disabled, lifts, ample parking, prayer rooms, spacious lobby, covered platform, user friendly station area, and many other amenities,” he said.

Dr Aminuddin said the Sentul–Batu Caves electrified double track project will also be an alternative public transportation for commuters along the Batu Caves, Selayang and Kuala Lumpur network.

“New train stations will be built along the new route. These stations are Batu Kentonmen, Kampung Batu, Taman Wahyu and Batu Caves.

“These stations and the new route will definitely draw more passengers, especially foreign tourists and Hindu devotees to the Hindu temple, as the Batu Caves Station is located right next to the temple itself,” he said, adding it was expected to be completed in April 2010. [TRANSIT: Another example of a project that has been delayed too much and should have been started and completed long ago.]

Dr Aminuddin said KTM Berhad is upgrading stations to include covered platforms at various KTM Komuter stations in the Klang Valley to protect passengers from the elements.

“Previously, most platforms were uncovered so passengers were affected during rainy or hot sunny days,” he said, adding that the entire refurbishment project was due to be completed in December 2013.

“Park & Pay passengers at KTM Komuter stations will not be left out as the parking facilities will also be expanded to include, among others, multi-storey carparks.

“As the ridership is increasing and we are expecting more passengers, KTM Komuter is making more space for vehicle parking, with covered walkways from the parking to the station for a more convenient transit,” he said. [TRANSIT: How about real, reliable feeder bus services and bicycle networks and pedestrian paths?]

He said KTM Berhad is also in the midst of upgrading facilities for the disabled at various KTM Komuter stations in the Klang Valley.

“A total of 12 stations have and will be upgraded to OKU-friendly stations. At present, seven stations have been successfully upgraded, which include, among others, Subang Jaya, Bank Negara, Kepong Sentral, MidValley, Kajang and Seremban. This project is expected to be completed by May 2010.

“Various Klang Valley stations would also be installed with Wi-Fi services to enable people on the go to surf and work while waiting for the train to arrive. This project is expected to be completed by October 2012”, he said.

With all the recent developments in the modernisation of KTM system and facilities, passengers can expect a more reliable, convenient, comfortable and hassle-free travel in the near future on the KTM Berhad rail network.

TRANSIT Says:

As you know, TRANSIT is a huge supporter of simple, effective public transport services. While many people look down on KTM and KTM Komuter for poor, unreliable service, this is more a result of a lack of government investment in KTM – rather than failings of KTMB itself.

The fact is that we need to evaluate KTM fairly by looking at its history and all of its current services – the “generally profitable” freight division, the “barely breaking-even” Komuter division and the “money-losing” Intercity division, as well as the issues that each of these divisions are facing.

With this knowledge we can have a better understanding of the challenges that KTMB has to deal with – and we can urge the government to invest more money into improving the organization and the services it provides.

Freight Railways, Tin, & Meter Gauge

A bit of history – the railways in Malaysia are “meter gauge” which means that the width between the rails is 1000 mm or 1 m. Narrower railway gauge is traditionally used for freight railways, because speed is not important and because construction costs less, the trains are lighter, and narrower gauges allow allows tighter turns and easy movement of railcars.

Considering that most of Malaysia’s rail lines were built to move tin from mines in the interior to the ports on the coast, the narrowness of Malaysia’s railway gauge starts to make sense.

Please note that while “meter gauge” is narrow, it is not the same as “narrow gauge” which is 1067 mm wide.

An image showing a multiple-gauge (standard, narrow and meter) railway - courtesy of wikipedia

Standard Gauge

As you can see from the image above, “standard gauge” has a 1435 mm (1.435 m) distance between the rails. Standard gauge railways allow faster speeds because the wider train gauge lowers centre of gravity. However, faster speeds also require wider turns and spaces.

*In Malaysia, standard gauge railways can be found on the Kelana Jaya and Ampang LRT line as well as the Express Rail Link.

More information about rail gauge can be found at the Wikipedia entries for:

The most dominant rail gauges, from widest to narrowest:

Above info from “List of Rail Gauges” on Wikipedia

Double Tracking

Double tracking, or the creation of 2 side-by-side railway tracks, allows a huge increase in railway operations – simply because trains can pass each other and do not have to pull over and wait.

Single track meter gauge KTM railway in Perlis - image from Skyscrapercity.com
Single track meter gauge KTM railway in Perlis, with space for at least 2 more tracks if needed - image from Skyscrapercity.com

To give you an example, it is expected that the double tracking of Malaysia’s railway lines will allow KTM to increase their train movements by 10x – meaning that rail service will be a lot faster and more reliable.

You may have already noted the increased number of shuttle trains between KL and Ipoh as well as their increased frequency & reliability – all thanks to double tracking.

Commuter Services

Commuter services are short-distance passenger services run on a rail line, traditionally bringing people into and out of urban centres. Unlike “mass transit” services like LRT and MRT, Commuter services usually have less frequent stops and cover longer distances.  Commuter services often have fewer amenities and may not have as high a frequency as LRT or MRT services.

However, with enough trains and track space, there is no reason why Commuter services cannot be high frequency. Many cities have excellent commuter rail networks and can have commuter rail at 5-10 minute frequencies during peak hours.

In Malaysia, we could have 5 minute frequency for Komuter service – if the government would buy 100 new EMU trainsets for KTM Komuter.

Electrification

Electrification allows the running of Electric trains pulled by electric locomotives, or “Electric-Multiple Unit” (EMU) passenger trains. The advantages of electrification include lower operating costs, faster acceleration and deceleration and greater energy efficiency.

An electric locomotive - image courtesy of skyscrapercity.com
An electric locomotive - image courtesy of skyscrapercity.com

Modern electric trains have regenerative breaking, meaning that the braking and slowing of the train generates electricity which is fed back into the power grid.

The overall benefit is a reduction in energy requirements, which cuts costs and pollution and is a huge benefit for the environment.

While electrification is an improvement, it does have a very high cost – which is why many countries only electrify their commuter railways (which have more frequent stops and starts) and not their freight railways.

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2 thoughts on “KTM Modernization?”

  1. The Batu Caves extension is commendable but I do have an issue with the facilities at one of the stations: Taman Wahyu.

    Situated right next to Jalan Ipoh, KTMB may have constructed its bus/ taxi stop too close to the road. The stopping bays are just separated from the three-lane Jalan Ipoh by a strip of yellow line; the place is narrower than the bus stop at Kelana Jaya LRT station. It seems a sure thing that vehicles that stop to drop off/ pick up at this future Komuter station would inadvertantly produce another bottleneck at both sides of Jalan Ipoh.

    With the railway reserve land, I think they could have done a better job in siting the bus/ taxi stop.

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