PUBLIC transport is an essential service that many rely on, especially those from the lower-income group.
While the government is encouraging the public to take trains and buses, especially to get to and from work and school, the reality on the ground for commuters is a different story.
Imagine a situation where that same public transport makes you late for work and leaves you scrambling for alternative options.
That is the reality for many users of KTM Bhd’s (KTMB) Komuter train service.
On July 31, passengers Norlida Hassan, 56, and her granddaughter Nordiana Ardilla, 14, were stranded after the train failed to arrive on time at the Sungai Buloh station.
Norlida works as a healthcare assistant at Hospital Slim River while Nordiana is a student of SMK Dato’ Zulkifli Muhammad, also in Slim River.
“I am forced to take emergency leave and my granddaughter also has to miss school, ” she said.
Norlida added that she had been waiting since 8.30am and the train had still not arrived by 9.30am.
They and the other commuters were told it was due to a cable breakdown.
Due to the incident, passengers who came to the station later were not allowed to buy tokens to board trains on the Tanjung Malim route.
Muhyiddin Ahad, 66, who works at a steel production factory in Rasa, was also one of the passengers affected that day.
He said the delays made it hard for people to rely on the trains, especially when going to work.
“There is no point leaving my house early because the train is rarely on time, ” he said.
KTMB corporate communications head Ahmad Asri Khalbi said a cable breakdown happened between the Kuang and Rawang stations.
He said the incident occurred at 8.20am and repairs would take around three hours to be completed.
Ahmad Asri said when such incidents happen, KTMB will provide free shuttle buses to passengers.
However, passengers that day said no information was given about the timing and pickup point of the shuttles.
KTM Komuter was established in 1995 to provide a local rail service throughout Kuala Lumpur and suburban areas of the Klang Valley.
It has two main lines servicing Tanjung Malim to Port Klang as well as the Batu Caves to Tampin/ Pulau Sebang routes.
It was reported that KTMB is upgrading its tracks and the process is expected to be completed by middle of next year.
While the upgrading is taking place, it can only use one of its two tracks at a time.
Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris student S. Danushiny also frequently uses the Komuter service to get from her house in Klang to her campus in Tanjung Malim, Perak.
She said not only does the train not come on time, often it stops midway, adding that she had missed lectures countless times.
“There will normally be a message on the LED screen in the coach.
“Usually, the reasons given are signal clearance, derailment or cable breakdown, ” she said.
One such incident occurred at the Salak Selatan station on Aug 6 when the train stopped for at least 10 minutes at each station en route.
International University of Malaya-Wales student A. Kinancy said she was travelling from the KTM Seremban station to KL Sentral at the time.
“I was late for work by almost an hour because of this, ” said the undergraduate who is an intern at a firm in Petaling Jaya.
“We read on the LED screen that it was due to signal clearance. This usually means that they are clearing the track for another passing train.
“I was upset and so was everyone else. A delay like this during peak hours is such a hassle.
“Everyone was calling their colleagues or employers informing them that they would be delayed for work, ” she added.
Most passengers exited the train at the Salak Selatan station as no announcements were made on an alternative route or other transport options available.
In May, KTMB launched a mobile app, MyRailtime, to help commuters plan their journey better.
But users like Kinancy said it was not working whenever she tried to use it.
“I would often get messages like ‘the system is under maintenance or unavailable’.”
Ahmad Asri said whenever an unexpected incident takes place on the Komuter service, the Electronic Train Service or ETS is also affected because they run along the same tracks.
“However, we do send our staff to resolve the problem as soon as possible so operations can go back to normal, ” he said.
Ahmad Asri added that the situation should improve once the second phase of the Klang Valley Double Track rail upgrade is completed.