SLEEPY towns in Perak may not be so quiet anymore when Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd’s (KTMB) Komuter Utara service launches its new route between Ipoh and Butterworth in Penang, on Malaysia Day.
The new train service en route to Butterworth in Penang will make stops at three stations in Perak, namely Ipoh, Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Siput.
When contacted, a KTMB spokesperson said the route between Butterworth and Padang Rengas in Perak was being extended south to Ipoh.
“The KTM Komuter Utara Padang Rengas–Butterworth–Padang Rengas route, introduced in 2015, has received over 27.5 million commuters up until August this year,” he said.
“The newly introduced Komuter Utara service between Ipoh and Butterworth will include stops at Sungai Siput and Kuala Kangsar stations.
“It will take at least one hour and 56 minutes to get from Ipoh to the Butterworth station.”
He said the extended route would offer 20 train services a day.
“KTMB believes that the extended route will benefit everyone, especially working adults, students and families going on vacation,” he added.
Locals in Sungai Siput are happy because they believe the extended route will help boost tourism and bring economic growth to their town.
Restaurant owner Rabiatun Adawiah Ros Azman, 31, from Sungai Siput, is planning to go on the Komuter soon.
“There is nothing much to do in Sungai Siput. Most of us here either go to Ipoh or Kuala Kangsar for entertainment.
“Perhaps more businesses will open up when tourists travelling on the Komuter start visiting Sungai Siput.
“Public transportation in Sungai Siput is quite bad. The public bus is not as frequent as it used to be. Even ehailing cars are quite hard to come by.
“It is a good thing that the new Komuter service can get us to Ipoh and Penang.
“Among all the new routes being introduced, I am excited to take the train from Sungai Siput to Butterworth.
“Then from there, I can take the train up to Padang Besar in Perlis, to get to Hatyai in Thailand,” she added.
Housewife Asiah Yusof, 62, is concerned about seating in the train.
“I went to Padang Besar on the KTMB’s Electric Train Service (ETS). The train was great because everyone had their own designated seat, and there were toilets and even a cafe on board.
“But the Komuter does not have that. For an elderly person like me, I am worried about not being able to get a seat, especially when it gets crowded.
“The younger ones may be excited with the introduction of the new Komuter service but I will stick with the ETS,” she said.
However, Asiah hopes the new Komuter service will entice more people to visit Sungai Siput.
She is also hoping more restaurants and tourist attractions will open up in the town.
“Right now, there aren’t big stores in Sungai Siput.
“At times, when people ask for suggestions on places to visit in Sungai Siput, I can only think of Kuala Mu and Lata Penyel.
“We also have the Victoria Bridge in Karai. But that is all.
“As for food, I would recommend laksa buyong (rice noodles in fish-based soup), curry mee and local Malay delicacies,” she said.
The new Komuter route may also open up job opportunities for locals, especially if more companies set up business in Sungai Siput, which in turn would help build the local economy, said Asiah.
“There are more elderly folk here in Sungai Siput because most of our children either live in Ipoh or in other states as there are better job prospects,” she said.
“My children for example, have moved to Ipoh and Manjung. My neighbour’s children are living in Kuala Lumpur because there are no jobs here.”
Businessman M. Umaindren, 35, said the Komuter service would make it easier for him to travel to Penang.
“I work in Ipoh. Now that KTMB has introduced the Komuter here, perhaps I will take the train instead of driving,” he said, adding that he wished KTMB would introduce a daily train service from Ipoh to Hatyai for the convenience of travellers.
Muhamad Afham Suhaimi, 28, who is currently studying in Kedah, is excited to try the Komuter service.
“There is currently a KTMB train service to Alor Setar and Kangar but it is still too far from my campus in Sintok,” he said.
“During the semester break, I plan to catch the Komuter train and head to Butterworth before returning home to Ipoh.
“I am excited because I can now explore Butterworth just a daily train ride away.”
A student from Kuala Kangsar, who wished to be known only as Cheng, is considering commuting daily from her hometown to Ipoh.
“I rely on buses to go to the campus in Ipoh. It usually takes an hour or two, depending on the traffic,” she said.
“While it is cheaper to take the bus, I get motion sickness when travelling by road. It is more comfortable to take the Komuter train and maybe I can get my parents to try it too.
“I am planning a short vacation trip with my friends to Penang and we are excited about using the Komuter,” said Cheng.
The Sungai Siput train station is located less than 500m from Sungai Siput town while the Kuala Kangsar station is about 2km from the town centre.
Ipoh’s train station is a mere 500m from the city centre.
The northern Komuter route will stop at more than 10 stations now including Sungai Siput, Kuala Kangsar, Padang Rengas, Taiping, Kamunting, Bagan Serai, Parit Buntar, Nibong Tebal and Simpang Empat.
The ticket price from Ipoh to Butterworth for adults is RM12.80 one-way, and half price for children, senior citizens and the disabled.
Beginning Sept 16, the first Komuter train from Ipoh to Butterworth is at 4.40am while the service from Butterworth to Ipoh starts at 5.30am.
The last train from Ipoh to Butterworth is at 6.35pm while the one from Butterworth is at 7.10pm.