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Wednesday July 21, 2010

KL-Ipoh electric train to run soon

Delay in services should not be repeated for remaining portions of rail project

PETALING JAYA: The RM6bil Ipoh-Rawang rail track, which was completed in 2007, is set to see its maiden electric train service to Kuala Lumpur soon.

However, critics have warned against any delay in kicking off operations along the rest of the electrified rail artery in Peninsular Malaysia once construction is completed by the end of 2013.

They said electric train sets (ETS) should be ready for deployment once the Ipoh-Padang Besar stretch is completed by 2013 and the link between Gemas and Johor Baru expected to be ready around the same time, so that billions of ringgit of infrastructure funded by taxpayers did not lay idle and under-utilised.

The embarrassing delay in the start of the new train services along the upgraded Ipoh-Seremban stretch was the result of improper planning but this should not occur again once the remaining double-tracking project in the peninsula is completed.

A source said money for new ETS had been allocated under the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) and their construction would take about two years.

A file picture shows a KTMB train running on an electrified double-track

“The lesson from that mistake has been learnt,” he said, referring to the late utilisation of the completed Ipoh-Seremban track.

Given that it takes 24 months for the ETS to be built, orders would theoretically go out by the end of next year for the trains to be used on the electrified double tracks once built in three years.

Currently, the MMC Corp Bhd-Gamuda Bhd consortium is upgrading the 329km Ipoh-Padang Besar stretch for RM12.5bil.

The RM3.45bil Seremban-Gemas electrified double-tracking project was awarded to Ircon International Ltd and is scheduled for completion in 2012. The RM8bil Gemas-Johor Baru electrified double-tracking project has been slotted for award under the 10MP.

The understanding is that the project for the Gemas-Johor Baru route, which could be awarded soon, would be completed by 2013.

The value of the ETS order should be large, considering that many train sets would be needed to ply along the spine of the peninsula once all three components of the electrified double-tracking project are completed.

Reports indicated that KTM Bhd (KTMB) is set to launch a rail service using ETS soon which would cut the current travel time from Ipoh to Kuala Lumpur to two hours.

That service, which is now due to start 2½ years after the electrified tracks were completed, would be extended to Seremban.

KTMB was reported to have ordered five six-car ETS for RM250mil in 2007 to service the 300km route between Ipoh and Seremban.

The travel time would be reduced by an hour and the ETS can carry 350 passengers, which is 100 more than the current trains do.

KTMB could not be reached for comment.

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