TRANSIT took note of some very interesting articles about KTMB and Malaysia’s railway heritage, which is changing before our eyes with the Ipoh-Padang Besar & Seremban-Gemas Electrification & Double Tracking (EDT) Projects.
Heritage stations along the west coast of Malaysia are being replaced with modern structures. In some cases, aspects of the stations are being preserved. Sadly in other cases, stations are being completely dismantled & removed.
The articles are:
- 5 grand old stations to live on (NST, 28 July 2011);
- 90-year-old Arau railway station steeped in history (NST, 1 August 2011)
- New network offers more comfortable, faster rides (NST, 3 August 2011)
- Nibong Tebal station was centre of life (NST, 3 August 2011)
Because we liked the articles so much, TRANSIT decided to present them to you in full with some wonderful photos to remind the public of the importance of Malaysia’s railway heritage.
By G. Surach and Adie Suri Zulkefli
SHAH ALAM: They stand testament to a part of the nation’s history, tangible proof of the romanticism of a bygone era, have stood the test of time and are still used today.
And, chances are they will still be standing — and used — in decades to come, thanks to Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB).
The national railway service intends to preserve five old stations — at Batu Gajah, Bukit Berapit, Taiping, Alor Star and Padang Besar — for their historical significance and sentimental value, as well as to promote certain destinations to tourists.
Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, for whom the Batu Gajah station particularly holds a personal nostalgic value, was said to have come to the station’s rescue when almost 14 stations between the Ipoh and Padang Besar line were initially slated to be destroyed to make way for KTMB’s electrified double-tracking project (EDTP).
He, however, consented to the building of a new station at the royal town of Kuala Kangsar replacing the old, nostalgic station instead.
Meanwhile, the Taiping and Alor Star stations were designated by the National Heritage Department as national heritage sites.
Now, the old stations can be appreciated by future generations.
KTMB president Dr Aminuddin Adnan told the New Straits Times that the Batu Gajah station under the Ipoh-Rawang line would also be preserved as a possible site for a train museum.
He said the oldest and longest rail tunnel in the country, the Bukit Berapit rail tunnel would also be preserved even though new twin-bore tunnels were being built alongside the old tunnel under the new railway project.
Currently the EDTP, which is contracted to MMC-Gamuda Joint Venture Sdn Bhd has destroyed several old stations to make way for newly designed and more efficient stations to cater to commuters within the region.
The fates of the 10 remaining old stations such as Sungai Petani and the rest had already been sealed despite protests from residents and local authorities.
In the case of the Sungai Petani station, it is understood that the Sungai Petani Municipal Council (MPSPK) had appealed to KTMB officials and the Ministry of Transport to spare the station prior to the commencement of the double-railway track project.
However the plea was turned down as the station, located at the Sungai Petani town did not fall under the National Heritage Department’s heritage buildings category.
The station nevertheless is being spared due to a commendable effort by its local council’s move that struck a smart partnership with a private company to shift the structure to Taman Jubli, a public park less than a kilometre from its original site.
The issue behind the preservation of the old railway stations is that it constraints government agencies to preserve them with the hefty cost involved and maintenance as well.
When asked about the fate of the antiques within the stations that were destroyed, Aminuddin said that currently all antiques and significant artifacts had been moved to the railway museum in Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru respectively by KTMB’s Heritage Unit.
“We are now looking at our Batu Gajah International Complex and the old Johor Baru station as possible locations for a train museum to commemorate these items as well.
Currently, the EDTP between Ipoh and Padang Besar is 52 per cent complete.
The RM12.5 billion project kicked off on Jan 8, 2008 and is slated for completion in December 2013.
The EDTP, which covers 329km of double tracks, is the largest ongoing infrastructure project to date.
The railway lines run across the northern states of Perak, Penang, Kedah and Perlis. It is designed to cater to electric trains capable of speeds of up to 160kph, which will boost inter-city rail transportation.
Works on a 27km land viaduct, 3.5km Bukit Merah marine viaduct, Larut tunnel and Berapit twin-bore tunnels in Perak, and the new Prai Swing Bridge in Penang are in various stages of completion.
Various soil treatment methods are being carried out at all open locations, depending on the soil conditions while utility and drainage works are also being done.
The project will consist of two sections, a 171km stretch from Ipoh to Butterworth and another 158km stretch from Bukit Mertajam to Padang Besar.
It is expected that the Ipoh-Butterworth section will be given a higher priority as it is a continuation from the Rawang stretch, and will eventually shorten the travel time between Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth to three hours instead of the normal seven hours.
The project will also feature a 3.3km tunnel in Bukit Berapit, Perak, which will become the longest rail tunnel in Southeast Asia once completed.
The second article focuses on Arau station, which is 90 years old … but sadly, will be demolished as part of the EDT project.
90-year-old Arau railway station steeped in history (NST, 1 August 2011)
AFTER serving the royal town of Arau for more than 90 years, the old Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) Arau railway station ended its operations in June, with the last passenger train to Kuala Lumpur passing the station at 7.50pm. For the townsfolk living 14km from Kangar, the closure marks a transition of an old, quaint station to a modern and well-equipped infrastructure.
The oldest railway station in Perlis is making way for the construction of the 329km electrified double-tracking railway project from Ipoh to Padang Besar.
Following the closure, rail services were moved to another temporary station in Kampung Titi Besi, about 200m from the present site.
Despite the closure, the Kantin Mek Siti food stall was still operating.
Owner Siti Rohana Abdul Hamid had fond memories of the Arau station bustling with people, mostly students from Universiti Teknologi Mara Arau during the balik kampung festive season.
“The students used to wait for hours at the station. They would order coffee and chat with each other about Hari Raya celebrations in their hometowns. I often joined in the conversation,” said the 49-year-old who has been running the stall for the past eight years.
Although KTMB did not give her any assurance of a trading spot at the new station, Siti Rohana remained hopeful.
Her husband, Osman Salleh, 51, said the station had been a part and parcel of the town here.
“I used to run around here as a child. The older folk forbade us from going to an abandoned area, which used to be the staff quarters and office. They said it was haunted,” he said smilingly, pointing to two small buildings waiting to be demolished.
Osman also said the three train pulleys at the station, which had since been removed, were at least a century-old.
A walk along the station in the midst of the construction revealed many interesting historical items, among them an old British lock belonging to the track’s main switch and an old KTMB post box, which still had a bundle of letters in them.
When asked about the demolition of the station, Osman said while he felt sad, life had to go on.
“I feel that a part of me is going with the old station, but hopefully, the new station will be like a breath of fresh air to the town.”
At the office of the temporary station, an antique British safebox stood as a decorative piece.
KTMB rail worker S. Nallathambi said the station used to be a busy place in the 1970s and 1980s, where rice and coal supplies were transported.
“The Bernas godown was built there to store rice which was transported from here to the rest of the peninsula. The station also had coal storage facilities,” said the 58-year-old who works as a line-man.
Arau railway station manager Mohd Nazri Ismail said the closure of the station would enable the upgrading of public transport. “Rail services are operating as usual.”
The Arau station is one of the 10 old stations between Ipoh and Padang Besar which are being demolished under the project.
The third article focuses on the benefits of the future rail network.
New network offers more comfortable, faster rides(NST, 3 August 2011)
ADIE SURI ZULKEFLI and G. SURACH look at the future of rail service with the targeted completion of the electrified double-tracking project by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad in 2013 and the efforts to save old memories
OLD safe boxes, locks and the train pulley systems are among the items preserved from the old Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad’s (KTMB) stations which were demolished to make way for the ongoing electrified double-tracking project from Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar.
KTMB president Dr Aminuddin Adnan said most of the smaller items were removed by its heritage unit to the railway museums in Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru while the large ones such as the coaches and the machinery would be relocated in stages to be conserved and later displayed.
He said KTMB and the then Museum and Antiquities Department (now known as the Malaysia Museum Department) had the hard task of selecting five stations in Batu Gajah, Taiping and Bukit Berapit in Perak, Alor Star in Kedah and Padang Besar in Perlis, to be retained while 13 others were demolished.
He said they took another approach in documenting in detail architectural drawings of the Tapah Road station, the Tanjong Malim station, the Taiping Station and the Victoria bridge near Kuala Kangsar.
“We are planning to turn the Batu Gajah station into a museum too. As for the old token system which had been used for years, we will retain it at some stations.”
Aminuddin, who was a former student of the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), recalled the exciting train rides back to his hometown in Kajang during holidays, but promised that the new electrified double-tracking project or EDTP would be able to offer faster, comfortable and smoother rides.
“Travelling time will be cut by half just like on the KL-Ipoh ride just two hours, and we hope to introduce commuter services from Butterworth to Ipoh and Alor Star to Butterworth.
“We also plan to introduce similar rail services for Bandar Iskandar project in Johor Baru.”
The old token ring, manual switches, signalling posts and flag systems would be replaced with the Computerised Traffic Control Management System whereby all train movements would be monitored from a centralised control centre in a main station within each region.
“The new stations will be equipped with modern facilities with improved ticketing system, less-waiting time, more toilets, food outlets, passenger information system, closed-circuit television cameras for safety and WiFi at the main stations.
“We are also providing a ‘rail tourism home stay package’ for tourists and we are promoting it internationally via the Internet as well as participating in trade exhibitions abroad and liaising with our local travel agents.”
Aminuddin said they also planned to introduce new rail packages such as mobile hotels within coaches to rail packages for entertainment purposes such as an events’ coach with karaoke on-board in addition to a luxury package.
Meanwhile, the Sungai Petani railway station in Kedah, which had been slated for demolition, will instead be dismantled and rebuilt into a restaurant at Taman Jubli, a public park a kilometre away.
It is learnt that the Sungai Petani Municipal Council (MPSPK) had brought in a private company which would bear the cost of reassembling the building in return for the concession rights to manage the restaurant.
Finally, the fourth article focuses on Nibong Tebal station
FOR the Nibong Tebal folk, the Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) railway station is more than just a transit point for train passengers.
It was their main gathering place but after serving the town for nearly a century, the iconic station was removed in January last year to make way for the construction of the ongoing double-tracking project.
A. Rajandren, whose Indian-born father R. Alaganathan set up a thosai stall at the station, said it was the fifth oldest station operating since 1903 and was part of the Seberang Prai-Johor Baru line.
The first railway track was opened in 1885 from Port Weld (Kuala Sepetang) to Taiping while the second track from Kuala Lumpur to Klang was opened the following year.
The British colonial administration picked Nibong Tebal to build a station due to its thriving mining industry during the 19th century.
The construction began in 1899. Nibong Tebal line was connected to Tanjung Malim in Perak and Kuala Kubu Baru and Bangi in Selangor.
Another historical landmark built together with the railway system was an iron bridge which spanned across the Sungai Krian, just a stone’s throw away from the Nibong Tebal railway station.
Rajandren, 50, who inherited the stall from his father in the 1990’s, said the railway station was the landmark for Nibong Tebal town being the only station for the Seberang Prai Selatan district. The nearest south-bound station was in Parit Buntar, in northern Perak.
“The railway station was more than a trading place for my family. My father, who died in 1998, struggled to build a life and a family after migrating here.
“Our customers came from all walks of life. Indians, Malays and Chinese, locals and outsiders.”
Until the early 1980s, the Nibong Tebal station was the transportation hub for Seberang Perai Selatan district and the northern Perak district.
“At that time, the train service was the main mode of transport as there were no express buses and private vehicles.
Rajandren’s customer, Khor Lit Chuan in his 60’s who worked in Kuala Lumpur in the 1970s, said he used to take the train to balik kampung.
“The best moments were when the train reached the station in the morning and I will have thosai there for breakfast before heading home. I am sad to see it close,” he said.
For those of you who are interested in more information & photos, please take a look at the KTMRailwayfan Club website, or the KTM (Malayan Railway) and Railway Stations in Malaysia threads on the Malaysia – Pengangkutan page on the Skyscrapercity.com forum.