Staying on track and loving it

Badrulhisham (second from right) having a discussion with his team from Prasarana’s Track Network Maintenance Department (TNMD). At right is Syafullah. — Photos: IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

THE Light Rapid Transit (LRT) service by Prasarana Malaysia Bhd is undeniably an efficient public tranآ­sportation mode in the Klang Valley. Thousands of commuters have relied on the service daily over the years.

Unknown to many, when most commuters are fast asleep, a team of unseen “night owls” emerge on the tracks when midnight strikes.

They inspect and carry out track maintenance work until the wee hours of the morning.

The maintenance work scope of Prasarana’s Track Network Maintenance Department (TNMD) also consists of greasing and changing the rail tracks.

A team of four would inspect each LRT line by commuting on a rail- borne maintenance wagon. A team usually consists of an engineer, a supervisor and two technicians.

One of them is 45-year-old Badrulhisham Ahmad, who became a track maintenance supervisor with the transportation services company in 1998.

He had applied for the vacancy after coming across an eye-catching tagline of a job advertisement in a Malay daily: Membina kerjaya bersama Putra (Building a career with Putra).

“I had no idea what the job was about until I attended the interview. When I was first hired, the Putra LRT line’s train infrastructure was under construction.

“I was given training and continued learning throughout my career. I have stayed in this job for two decades,” said Badrulhisham, a pioneer of the Prasarana team.

“When I started my job, the train maintenance team only had 15 staff members. Now we are 110-strong. I have watched the growth of this sector with the company,” he said, adding that he was proud to serve the country’s first LRT route – the Kelana Jaya line.

TNMD staff lubricating the rails and track during a re-greasing turn-out process.
TNMD staff lubricating the rails and track during a re-greasing turn-out process.

Badrulhisham has many fond memories from his early days on the job.

“One early morning, my son waved at me as I passed his school in a rail-borne wagon near the Kerinchi station. I waved back at him.

“His teachers were surprised when he told them that it was his father on the track. My son knew the timing and waited for me. It was very sweet,” he smiled.

While Badrulhisham supervises and plans the maintenance work, his junior Syafullah Sulaiman, 27, is well versed with the machines used in maintenance work.

Syafullah said he was prompted to apply for the job with the company after Badrulhisham – his senior at Universiti Teknologi Mara Pulau Pinang – spoke to him about the interesting job scope.

Syafullah holds a degree in manufacturing but he learnt the ropes of the train maintenance job from seniors like Badrulhisham.

“I consider myself lucky because I am one of only a few in the country who knows track maintenance work. You can’t learn this job anywhere else but here. There is no degree in railway engineering but this is an interesting job. The most exciting and challenging part of this job is when we change the rail tracks.

“We carry out detailed planning before we execute our tasks.

A hydraulic machine called Speeder 3 is used for turn-table maintenance work near the Bangsar station.
A hydraulic machine called Speeder 3 is used for turn-table maintenance work near the Bangsar station.

“It is not as simple as it may seem to an ordinary person. We have to be careful, precise with the fitting and everything must go well.

“We work as a team and it requires great coordination. We must work fast and complete a task perfectly. There is no room for sloppy jobs,” he explained.

“The work also takes place after midnight and must be completed before the first train begins operations at 6am.

“A rail tongue gap, which is the small gap between the rail tracks, result in a loud noise when the train passes. We have to ensure every-thing is accurate and precise. The gap must be less than 1.5mm,” said Syafullah, adding that the job entailed picking up new skills related to the machinery used for repair works.

He said the job kept him excited “because there are many exciting equipment to explore at work”.

“This is like any guy’s dream job because of the equipment we work with. They can’t be found anywhere else in the country.”

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