Another hollow moment for KTM Berhad?

While many of us were thinking head of the Balik Kampung and Raya experience and our holidays, many KTMB employees were working hard and giving up their time with their families in order to get us to our destinations.

G. Prakash from the Malay Mail wrote a very interesting piece about these hard working KTMB employees, and I enclose part of it below for you to read.

Selfless individuals: The people at KTM who make sure we get home safely during the Raya rush

THERE are few things more traditional during Hari Raya than taking the train home to one’s kampung.

A long trek over many kilometres, passing towns and the countryside, ending with one setting foot in one’s hometown is usually the perfect end to such a journey.

However, spare a thought for those who make the trip possible. Each year, hundreds of KTM Bhd employees work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that Malaysians from all walks of life get to board the trains and arrive at their destinations safely.

From counter staff, station masters to the locomotive drivers themselves, these faceless individuals rarely get the recognition they so richly deserve for the sacrifices put in.

TRANSIT Says:

We wish more people would appreciate that KTMB staff are working hard. And we wish that people would understand that KTM service is improving vastly over what it was in the past, thanks to improved infrastructure, new carriages and locomotives, and more funding from the government.

Unfortunately, KTMB staff get the blame for the government’s wholesale neglect of KTM (especially the Komuter service) in favour of other modes of transport.

We at TRANSIT wonder why the government does not give KTMB the support that it needs. Right now KTMB has only received funding for 5 new electric-multiple unit trains for the KL-Ipoh route and has received no funding to expand the Komuter train fleet, even though this is desperately needed.

In contrast, Prasarana intends to spend upwards of RM35 billion on LRT and MRT lines and has purchased 35 trains for the Kelana Jaya line and intends to purchase another 13 trains for the Ampang line!

TRANSIT wonders why the government is so willing to spend massive amounts of money on LRT infrastructure in the Klang Valley but unwilling to put up the money for more KTM Komuter and intercity EMUs.

We note that KTMB employees have become very innovative in finding ways to resolve the current shortage of trains. One example would be the “Hybrid” Trains that they introduced earlier this year. Another example would be the intended purchase of 4 used Diesel Multiple Unit trains to supplement the Komuter service. Finally, there is the example below, where KTMB used a Komuter EMU as a shuttle train on the KL-Ipoh route – to help their passengers Balik Kampung.

Information on the KTM EMU Balik Kampung Shuttle - image courtesy of TWK90
Information on the KTM EMU Balik Kampung Shuttle - image courtesy of TWK90
Train schedule and fare information on the KTM EMU Balik Kampung Shuttle - image courtesy of TWK90
Train schedule and fare information on the KTM EMU Balik Kampung Shuttle - image courtesy of TWK90

[TRANSIT: It may just be us but the fare table has an error because it only shows Slim River once (on the left column) but all of the other destinations are shown twice (on the left column and top row)]

The arrival of the first EMU train carrying passengers should have been a momentous occasion for KTMB, and a celebration of the investment of billions of RM into better train services along the KL – Ipoh route.

Tun Dr. Mahathir & Prime Minister Najib and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should have been there at KL Sentral to flag-off this train.

What disappoints us is that KTMB has had a very good year, working hard to revamp their operations and maintain that RM1 profit target – but the same government that pushed them into huge losses with the massive projects like the KL-Ipoh double tracking, is nowhere to be seen.

Our thoughts about this are expressed in the letter below, which has also been sent to KTMB staff.

The members of TRANSIT note that while many Malaysians were participating in the Balik Kampung and Hari Raya Aidilfitri, many hard working employees at KTM Berhad and other public transport operators stayed back to ensure that services were on time and high quality.

For their efforts & sacrifice, we wish to give thanks to these employees and their families.

We also note that KTMB staff used the Balik Kampung Aidilfitri to quietly introduce yet-another innovative public transportation solution. Capitalizing on reduced demand for KTM Komuter services in the Klang Valley, KTMB used a Komuter EMU for a shuttle train service on the KL-Ipoh sector from 17-19th September.

This marks the first time that an electric train has carried passengers between KL and Ipoh – the culminating moment of the KL-Ipoh double-tracking and electrification project.

And no one in the government was there to see it happen. Not former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir, who had the vision for a high-speed rail connection between KL and Ipoh. Nor former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, under who’s administration the project was completed (in 2007). And Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was not their either, despite the fact that KTM’s improved intercity services were a sign of the recovery of the company.

It is sad that what should have been a great moment for KTMB staff has just passed by without mention.

But then again, the moment should have happened 2 years ago, when the KL-Ipoh double tracking & electrification project was completed and the electric power was energized.

But unfortunately, the government did not decide on the modern Electric Multiple Unit Trains for the KL-Ipoh fast train service until the end of 2007 – long after the route had been double-tracked and electrified.

In fact, those new, modern trains (originally 6 trains but reduced to only 5) will arrive at the end of this year. KTMB is hoping that they will have a fast train service between Ipoh & Seremban early next year.

KTMB also needs to purchase new Electric Trains for the KTM Komuter service. Originally there was a plan to purchase 8 new, 4-carriage EMUs along with the 6 fast-trains.  However, indications are that the government has asked KTMB to review their request.

KTM Komuter has fewer than 30 of the original 62 trains currently operating but is carry three times as many passengers as they did in 1994. There are no new parts available for the Class 81 and 82 trains, forcing KTMB to cannibalize their own fleet and build “hybrid” trains in order to get trains moving.

People complain frequently about KTM Komuter’s unreliable, infrequent service – but do they know that KTM Komuter does not have enough trains? Do they know that KTM Komuter needs at least 60 more trainsets to offer a decent 10-minute service frequency?

Do they know that the government has so far made no announcement and come forward with no money to buy new Electric train sets for KTM Komuter?

The members of TRANSIT wonder how Finance Ministry can find the more than RM35 billion Prasarana will need for the new LRT extensions and MRT line, as well as enough money to buy 35 new trains for the Kelana Jaya LRT and 13 new trains for the Ampang LRT.

There is so much money available to expand the LRT. Why is there no money available to expand and improve the KTM Komuter service?

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