BATU GAJAH: The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) will not compromise when it comes to assessing the reliability, safety and comfort of the 10 ETS trainsets bought from China.
It is compelled to adopt this stance given that these trains, made by CSR Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Ltd for intercity passenger services, can easily hit 145kph on a track designed for 160kph, making them the fastest trains in the country.
Its caution is not unwarranted as the first Chinese unit, codenamed ETS201, actually failed the compulsory “fault-free running” test practically eight days in a row when it was first tested in June, according to SPAD.
Under protocol that is followed internationally, the trainset has to clock 10,000km without failing any criteria related to safety and even comfort.
The major components tested included the propulsion system, the brakes, air-conditioning, door operations, auxiliary power supply, automatic train protection system, suspension, train control and management system, couplers, and even the wipers.
A component either passes or fails, with no intermediate categorisation.
Whenever a failure is recorded, the odometer is reset, and the test begins all over again until the train covers 10,000km flawlessly.
According to head of SPAD’s rail division Yuslizar Daud, ETS201 failed many times when it was tested from June 11 to 18 although he did not specify the actual faults.
On July 1, ETS201 managed to cover 6,600km without fault, and this trainset was subsequently displayed to the media on Thursday during the Transport Minister’s visit to the CRRC Rolling Stock Centre Malaysia here.
The second trainset, called ETS202, is being tested near Ipoh, while the remaining eight trainsets are still being assembled.
The power supply system has to be tip-top as the train will pass through the longest rail tunnel in Malaysia – the 3.2km-long Berapit tunnel near Kuala Kangsar, Perak.
Any train fault in the middle of the tunnel could mean passengers have to walk nearly 1.5km to either end to be evacuated, a doubly unpleasant proposition if it happens at night.
“As for the wiper, if it fails during a rainstorm, the driver would not be able to see the track signals, thus compromising safety,” said Yuslizar.
According to SPAD’s chief development officer Dr Prodyut Dutt, the commission would not compromise when it came to safety, even when it recognised many were impatient to ride the ETS after the double track from Padang Besar (Perlis) to Gemas (Negri Sembilan) was ready.
Last Thursday, KTMB introduced an Ipoh-Padang Besar service using older electric trains.
On Saturday, it rolled out a once-daily direct service from Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar with stops at Tanjung Malim, Tapah, Kampar, Ipoh, Kuala Kangsar, Taiping, Parit Buntar, Bukit Mertajam, Butterworth, Sungai Petani, Alor Setar and Arau.
The full journey takes five-and-a-half hours and costs RM80 one-way for an adult.
Today, KTM will also restore partial service to the east coast by introducing Tren Rakyat Timur, which departs Johor Baru at 8pm daily for Gua Musang.