TRANSIT took note of this very interesting article about the currently unused Seremban-Port Dickson railway.
The Menteri Besar of Negri Sembilan has requested that SPAD look into rehabilitate the railway so that the state can operate passenger services as planned.
Repair rail tracks, says Mohamad (The Star)
26 April 2011
By SARBAN SINGH
THE Negri Sembilan government wants the federal authorities to rehabilitate the 39km Seremban-Port Dickson railway line which has been out of use for about three years now.
Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said the state authorities would request the Land Public Transport Commission (LPTC) to consider rehabilitating the line because it had the potential to boost tourism in Port Dickson.
“We were told that it would be costly to build the line again, but we hope LPTC will consider this because the line had been there for more than 100 years,” he said.
Mohamad said the state authorities had plans to start a tourist train linking Seremban and Port Dickson four years ago but it had to be shelved because the tracks were deemed unsafe.
The Seremban-Port Dickson line has been closed since July 2008 when a freight train transporting diesel from a refinery in Port Dickson to Ipoh derailed.
In the incident in Kampung Pulai near Rantau, the train’s 14 wagons transporting liquefied petroleum gas and diesel as well as the locomotive went off the tracks.
Before that, the line was used exclusively by two refineries in Port Dickson to transport their products to other parts of the country.
Passenger train services between Seremban and Port Dickson stopped in the mid-1970s.
The opening of the Seremban-Port Dickson Highway in 1997 also allowed companies to transport their products faster via road.
Keretapi Tanah Melayu had been reluctant to repair the tracks due to the high cost involved and that it was not a profitable venture.
Mohamad said although the project to rehabilitate the line was not listed under the 10th Malaysia Plan, he hoped that this would be considered.
“Since Port Dickson has been gazetted as a Wellness Zone, a Bandar Tentera Darat (army town) as well as Pantai Peranginan Negara (country’s popular tourist spot), we should make it easier for people to get here,” he added.
Most residents echoed Mohamad’s views and said a rail service would be an added attraction to Port Dickson.
Retired policeman Sarjit Singh, 62, remembers the days when he used to travel by rail from Sentul to Port Dickson to visit relatives.
“Although it was a much longer journey then, it was so much fun. Going to PD by train was something all my siblings looked forward to,” he said.
R. Balan, 60, said a rail service would surely boost tourism in the resort town.
“Tourists will be able to take the train right up to Port Dickson and this would also help reduce congestion on the roads,” he said.
However, self-employed C. F.Chew, 41, said the service should only be restarted if it made good economic sense.
“Reviving the project is going to be costly and if the fare is going to be high, then commuters will opt to travel by road,” he added.
We have always been consistent with our view that railway assets should never be allowed to go unused or be left to rot because of a lack of interest in funding them.
As we expect governments to maintain our roads, even the lesser used ones, we should similarly expect our governments to maintain our railways.
In the specific case of the Seremban-Port Dickson railway line, this is 39km of railway that could revitalize communities, encourage tourism activities, reduce congestion, and encourage commuters to use rail instead of roads – which would be good for the environment.
Could you imagine living in Port Dickson and commuting to KL on an ETS train? That would be an interesting opportunity for service and there would certainly be demand for it. What is needed is investment in public transport that works in the interests of the public.
And remember, a city does not have to be especially dense to have public transport service – even a rural area can benefit from a small, fast, frequent railway – as seen in this video from the 1940s of the British Columbia Electric Railway (Canada):
In case you are wondering, the British Columbia Electric Railway service ran more than 300 km of electric railway, in the form of urban streetcar/trams and interurban services around British Columbia’s lower mainland (now Greater Vancouver) from the late 1890s to 1950s.
As you can imagine, the BCER needed electrical power for the vehicles – so it formed electric power companies for this purpose. This would be like RapidKL owning Tenaga KL (assuming there was a Tenaga KL). Later, BCER formed itself into an electric power company, BC Electric. The railway later became a division of BC Electric. This would be like RapidKL setting up Tenaga KL which would become Tenaga Selangor, and RapidKL would become a division under Tenaga Selangor.
A bit confusing, but certainly a synergy of electric power – consumption in the form of transportation services & street lighting (and later housing), combined with a power distribution network.
And if you look closely at the video above, you can see the electrical power pylons that run along the railway route – sensible, don’t you think?
Anyways, in 1961 the Government of British Columbia took over BC Electric and it became the crown corporation BC Hydro – and the railway was run as a division of BC Hydro until 1989. Most of the railway lines were replaced by trolley buses, such as this low floor 18m (60ft) articulated trolley operated by Coast Mountain buses:
ps. in case you are wondering – the black rectangle in front of the bus is actually an ad space – part of the bicycle rack mounted to the front of the bus.