KUALA LUMPUR: People travelling between Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh can look forward to riding on fast trains that will run every hour at peak times and take only two hours to complete the journey.
Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) general manager for passenger and commuter services Hilmi Mohamad said KTMB would be operating these new trains once the Rawang-Ipoh double-tracking and electrification project was finished by the end of next year.
The RM4.2bil project, which began in 2000, involves the construction of a second railway track and the electrification of the 174km stretch of the main trunk line, allowing faster trains to operate without interruptions.
“Although operational details, such as timetables, will only be finalised when the physical construction work nears completion, we have planned for fast trains at such a frequency,” he told The Star.
Hilmi said the trains would run from KL Sentral and stop at Tanjung Malim, Behrang, Slim River, Sungkai, Tapah, Kampar and Batu Gajah, before going to Ipoh.
“A change in the design of the Rawang-Ipoh double-tracking project will allow trains to run at a maximum speed of 160kph instead of 120kph. This will allow trains to make the journey between Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh in about two hours,” he added.
Hilmi said KTMB would initially introduce hourly trains during high demand periods, and reduce the frequency to one train every two hours during off-peak times.
He did not say how many trains would be scheduled in a day, but Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik had said recently that as many as 24 services could operate between the two cities daily.
Now, there is only one passenger train daily in each direction, which runs at night as day trains have to be cancelled due to the double-tracking project. Before the project started, there were at least four trains in each direction, taking between four and six hours for the journey.
Hilmi said KTMB would be buying six electric trains to cater for the expansion of services. Each train would consist of six coaches, with a total seating capacity of about 500 people.
“The trains will be similar to the KTM Komuter's electric multiple units operating in the Klang Valley now. Of course, they will be more comfortable and have more facilities such as toilets, luggage racks and a cafeteria,” he said.
He added that the fares would be decided later and the new stations would use the closed-ticketing system under which only passengers with tickets would be allowed on the platforms.
“Besides normal tickets, there will also be electronic fare collection using either Touch 'n Go cards or the MyKad,” he said.
Asked how many people were expected to use the service, Hilmi said it was difficult to give an estimate at the moment.
“We aim to provide the service and improve on it first. Once the people see that a good service is available, I am sure the demand will grow,” he said, adding that experience from the KTM Komuter and light rail transit systems in the Klang Valley had shown that commuter numbers would build up once they found public transport to be reliable, cheap and convenient.
According to Hilmi, the stretch between Kuala Lumpur and Tanjung Malim would also be served by the KTM Komuter service, which would be extended from Rawang.
KTMB, he said, would probably operate separate trains between Rawang and Tanjung Malim rather than have trains from Seremban, which terminated at Rawang, continue their journey to Tanjung Malim.
“Because of the long distance between Seremban and Tanjung Malim, delays occurring anywhere along the line will result in serious disruptions to the timetable. Furthermore, passengers will not suffer too much inconvenience if the transfer in Rawang is planned properly,” he said.
He added that trains between Rawang and Tanjung Malim would stop at Serendah, Batang Kali, Rasa and Kuala Kubu Baru.