KTM Update: Work on Gemas-Johor Baru tracks to start soon?

TRANSIT took note of this article which indicates that the Electrification & Double Tracking of the Gemas-Johor Baru KTM railway is expected to begin soon.

Work on Gemas-Johor Baru tracks to start soon (The Star)
Friday February 19, 2010
By DESIREE TRESA GASPER

SEGAMAT: Work on the Gemas-Johor Baru dual tracking rail project awarded to a company from China will begin soon, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat.

“This project is a major step forward in developing the state further,” said Ong during his visit to the Segamat Inland Port here.

He said in order to upgrade the current railway services, the country should consider having wider tracks that would be able to accommodate high speed trains.

[TRANSIT: The Minister is mistaken here. KTMB should not be focusing on high-speed trains. Right now the current focus has to be on double-tracking, which will lead to a tenfold improvement in the frequency & reliability of KTM’s intercity and freight services.]

He explained that many people did not understand why the Government was still focusing on trains that were only travelling at 140kph when countries like China and Japan already had high-speed trains.

“The problem lies in the tracks. The current ones will not be able to handle high-speed trains as they are too narrow,” he said.

[TRANSIT: The problem is the perception that we should have high speed rail because they have it in China & Japan. We do not have the distances between cities or the urban populations that China & Japan have.]

A narrow track could result in a high-speed train being derailed.

“A standard gauge track is wider and it would be more stable. And it is time for us to set our sights on building these tracks alongside the old ones,” he said.

[TRANSIT: As we have said before, the Singapore-Kunming railway will be a standard gauge (1435mm) railway. However, this is not happening anytime soon and there is no real reason for KTMB to go it alone in introducing standard gauge track.]

As for the Padang Besar-Johor Baru tracking project, Ong said compensation to squatters and land owners including the state governments was settled before Chinese New Year.

“The question of compensation does not arise anymore,” he said after visiting the Kereta Api Tanah Melayu Berhad railway station here.

TRANSIT Says

We are happy to hear that the electrification & double tracking (EDT) for the Gemas-JB portion of the KTM railway will begin soon.

EDT of this route will lead to a huge increase in the reliability & frequency of KTMs intercity & freight trains.

Introducing electrification & double tracking will also allow for Komuter Selatan service, a vital investment in public transport in Johor Baru & The Iskandar development region.

However, given the recent allegations of corruption on the Seremban-Gemas project, TRANSIT wishes to express our expectation that the Gemas-JB project is done properly, openly and transparently.

As for the topic of high speed rail, TRANSIT feels that Minister Ong Tee Keat is premature in mentioning high speed rail and the networks that China and Japan have built.

Malaysia does not even have a fully double tracked and electrified rail network. There is no railway in Sarawak and the North Borneo Railway in Sabah is in need of major improvements. Please do not waste time looking into high-speed rail when we do not even have a complete basic railway infrastructure yet!

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