Feasibility study of railroad infrastructure in Borneo?

Our railroad network in peninsular Malaysia has undergone a lot of transformation since the time when it was introduced for the first time in 19th century (Taiping – Kuala Sepetang Line, no longer exists today).

Apart from Electrified Double Tracking Project (EDTP), we have also made significant progress in railroad industry by having our own rolling stock (trainset) assembling plant, operated by CRRC Zhuzhou from China. Apart from job opportunities created, indirectly we are developing our own talents in railroad industry.

(1) The atmosphere is Borneo is a little bit different compared to Peninsular Malaysia. People in Borneo would like to have more autonomy in making decisions for their own state. Landslide victory of Adenan Satem in recent state election has enlightened us on their desire since Adenan is seen as a CM that fights for more autonomy for his people.

(2) Other than having control of their immigration system (it is illegal for non-residents of Sarawak to stay more than 90 days in the state without proper permit), issues were also raised by the CM about non-Sarawakian workforce of a local oil and gas company operating in Sarawak.

What does (1) and (2) has to do with railroad infrastructure? Well, due to (1) and (2), I think it is best if concerned citizens from Sarawak to carry out their own feasibility study of developing railroad infrastructure in the state. In my opinion, railroad enthusiasts from Peninsular will be more than glad to offer any kind of assistance required, subject to restrictions by the democratically-elected state government. Of note, Sabah already has its own railway, owned by its state government.

KTM Intercity SCS Special Train Service

tren khas scs cuti sekolah - Image by KTM Berhad website
tren khas scs cuti sekolah – Image by KTM Berhad website

KTM Intercity has recently introduced a special train service that covers between KL Sentral and Ipoh at a competitive rate.

Users can buy the tickets at KTM Intercity counters located at KL Sentral and Ipoh Station. One-way journey will cost RM 25 for adults and RM 17 for children. There is no assigned seating for this service.

We were impressed by initiative from KTM to make the best out of what they currently have, we are disappointed with the uniavailability of onboard toilet for the coach. Journey between KL Sentral and Ipoh is not a short one. With a rough estimation of about two hours, quite a number of people would need to use the onboard toilet while they are on their journey. The availability of onboard toilet is very important to enable better customer experience.

However, we understand that this is probably the best solution that can come out from KTM Berhad’s management

KTM Berhad Logo
KTM Berhad Logo

KTM Berhad is one of the few service providers that are being compelled to use below-average rolling stocks, impose below-average train fares and numerous other limitations. We understand that i suffers from operational loss every year. Therefore, the government needs to improve this situation.

Railway industry in Malaysia as a lot of room for growth. Right now, only North-South highway is our transport backbone between northern and southern Malaysia. Therefore, by focusing more effort on improving rail services in Malaysia, we believe that the industry can prosper at a greater pace.

KL – Singapore High Speed Rail Link: Abe Pitches Japanese Technology to Najib

KTM Berhad Logo
KTM Berhad Logo

The Japanese Prime Minister suggested the use of Shinkansen technology in building high speed rail link between Singapore and KL during their recent meetup session, as reported by The Straits Times Asia.

Constructing high speed rail service is not easy. The government alone cannot produce a project of this magnitude without affecting other aspects of country expenditure. Therefore, initiatives and partnerships from private firms is highly encouraged to take place. Government-linked Companies (GLCs) should also move their investment arms and turn this project into a successful venture.

The establishment of high speed rail link is expected to have some degree of negative impact towards KTM Intercity service. One source said that KL – Singapore is the most profitable route for KTM Intercity. Therefore, if the rail link is established, KTM Intercity revenue might be jeopardized.

Given the fact that the fares of KTM Intercity is tightly controlled by the government, we do hope that the government does not ‘cannibalize’ its KTM Intercity service. KTM Intercity has lots of room for improvement and it is sad knowing that the government is not doing enough to propel KTM Berhad to a greater height.

We hope that KTM Berhad will have some sort of control over the proposed high speed rail link. Its current business model might be improved in order for them to carry out their business in a more logical and rational basis.

Possible Express Bus Ticket Price Increase?

Our living cost has already been rising. Quite a number of people are complaining that the increase does not correlate well with our paycheck increase. In certain fields, the theory holds true. For a number of people, life has already starting to treat them harshly. However, on November 7, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) gave us worse news. Express bus tickets will increase, according to a news article from BERNAMA.

The SPAD chairman, Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said that while the rate increase is still in planning, the price increase is inevitable as the operation cost has also been rising. Customers want more value-added services for their journey such as Wi-Fi services but they do not want to pay more at the same time. This is a difficult move as the operators need to improve their already-thinning profit margin to cope with declining satisfaction level among customers.

In addition, LANDASAN also has been receiving negative reviews on some express bus companies about system failure while booking tickets and also notoriously about how bad is the service from some express bus companies. Perhaps this is one aspect that the companies should look into. It is good to have wonderful value added amenities in express buses but customer satisfaction should never be overlooked.

We hope that with the increase of express bus ticket price, the service quality would also increase.

KTM ETS Food Service Quality

KTM ETS
KTM ETS Logo

Recently, I came across an article in The Star complaining about food service quality onboard ETS train. According to the author, one of the crew members responded rudely when he was asked about the food. Apart from rudeness, complaints can also be seen about unavailability of staff to take care of the orders placed at Food and Beverage counter in ETS’ Food & Beverage coach.

As a service provider with dedicated coach for food and beverage service, KTM Berhad should look into this problem seriously. While there are currently many KTMB staff who can behave appropriately and responded timely with customers’ complaints, there are also some of the ‘rotten eggs’ who smear the overall image of KTM Berhad.

The article mentioned above is about six months old (as of June 2013) but we are hoping that KTM Berhad has conducted a thorough investigation about this problem and rectified it in whichever way necessary. This is important to ensure customer satisfaction is taken up to a higher level.

ETS service is a prime choice of commuters traveling between Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur. If the service quality (in terms of staff and on-time performance) can be improved, quite a number of people would not mind paying extra compared to public bus as long as they can have a comfortable ride between Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur.

We are hoping that KTM Berhad will continue to look into ways to improve ETS service because it has clear advantage over bus service, which is the ability to circumvent through traffic jams (they use railroads!)

Update on July 27th 2013: Dead link

New Business Model for KTMB Freight

KTM Berhad Logo
KTM Berhad Logo

New business model is being proposed for KTMB Freight, the most profitable division in KTM Berhad as reported by Bernama.

The proposal, made by railway workers union, is championing the cause of rejecting Malaysian Mining Corporation (MMC)’s bid to invest up to RM 1 billion in KTMB Freight division. The main concern is if MMC takes over KTMB and suffer losses, employees would lose the benefits the they are currently enjoying such as bonuses, allowances, quarters and healthcare. Their proposal is to allow other private operators to use KTMB existing rail lines with their own rolling stock.

KTM YDM4 Diesel Locomotive
KTM YDM4 Diesel Locomotive

We think the step to attract private operators to use KTMB existing railroad network and paying tolls directly to KTMB will generate added revenue. Furthermore, the major constraint suffered by KTMB now is the limited number of rolling stock. In our opinion, we think the government should invest more in KTMB by providing them with reasonable number of rolling stock, in line with the ongoing double tracking project. KTMB’s current market share in cargo shipment of the country is really low with just about two to five percent.

With the promising progress of the double tracking project, we hope that KTMB will invest more on its cargo as well as passenger sector. This move will enable a more profitable KTMB and fulfilling the needs of commuters and commercial sectors.

LANDASAN

 

Kit Siang, meter gauge is enough for the time being.

Kit Siang's Blog Screenshot
Kit Siang’s Blog Screenshot

Kit Siang’s attitude (via a post published on his official blog) towards Malaysian Electrified Double Tracking Project (EDTP) is skeptical. According to the post, it is not justifiable to spend about RM 9 billion on the project simply because our trains run on meter gauge rails and cannot move as fast as the ones on standard gauge rails.

His argument on inability of trains to move fast along meter gauge is flawed. He might forget about the terrain nature of Malaysia which prohibits the usage of standard gauge rails, especially around hilly areas. He might also overlooked the fact that turning the whole inter-city railroad service from narrow gauge to standard gauge is extremely expensive, especially this will also include the exorbitant cost of modifying, if not replacing our current narrow-gauge rolling stock.

He might also forget the fact that our trains also run through the border to Thailand, which also uses meter gauge. Changing to standard gauge will adversely affect our freight services, which accounts a significant portion of revenue to our national railway company, Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) [2]. Of note, meter gauge has been here for a long time and it is a de facto standard for Southeast Asia railway network. Decision to change our railroad system (which is currently connected to neighboring countries) cannot be made single-handedly. Easier said than done.

The standard-gauge-run Acela Express, the only high-speed train service in the United States has an awesome top speed, which stands at 240 km/h. However, its average speed is only at 110 km/h due to local regulations in some stretches of its route and also due to geographical and infrastructure limitations. High speed trains are possible if the railroads are made away from general population due to high noise produced. Given our current layout, which often crosses cities and villages, it is not feasible to have such a high speed rail network as an alternative to EDTP.

Malaysia is paving its way towards better railroad service. With the introduction of double-tracked railway between Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur, a new KTM service called ETS (Electric Train Services) was introduced, offering a premium service with comfy fleet of trains with various amenities. The service might not be as perfect as the ones offered in some other countries but we need to be aware that we are paving our way towards betterment. ETS has top speed of 140 km/h and offers only two-hour journey between Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh (non-stop). This is actually faster than cars (did I mention it is safer?).

Let us not forget that we HAVE ALREADY BEEN USING STANDARD GAUGE in our newer rail systems, such as LRT (both Ampang and Kelana Jaya Line) and KLIA Ekspres. The reason why we stick to meter gauge for inter-city rail system is due to the integration of our freight and passenger services to neighboring countries. Therefore, we can see that the current administration is able to realize the benefits of having standard gauge railways for speed and stability.

The EDTP project might have its flaws but by simply complaining without even care to seek solution is worse. Reading their comments about. This is most probably not written by Kit Siang but I write this response because the post resembles his viewpoint, unless he states otherwise. The current government is not perfect at all but that does not indicate everything they are doing is wrong. Consider doing some homework before complaining (and not giving specific solutions).

 

Footnotes

  1. Inter-city rail service in Malaysia uses 1-meter long narrow gauge while most other parts in the world
  2. KTM Berhad depends a lot on freight services to ensure its sustainability in business. KTM Intercity service is best known for their extremely cheap rates. This does not simply happen because KTM is generous. It is a company. It spends money on maintaining trains and stations and it needs every cent of them, be it from government’s initiative or fare collection from its users. Since the fare system barely gives them profit, they need KTM Freight to survive.

KL Sentral is failing?

KTM Komuter Platform Area (KL Sentral)
KTM Komuter Platform Area (KL Sentral)

KL Sentral was developed to be the iconic intermodal transportation hub for Kuala Lumpur. The early phase of its mega-scale development stage is the KL Sentral station itself. The 700 ft x 515 ft station that opens in 2001 is now facing some of the problems that become a nuisance for commuters and tourists.

One of the problems highlighted is the abundance of stalls selling small items such as souvenirs and headscarves. As long as the stalls are carefully placed around the station that should not be a huge problem. Small stalls can also be seen around other transport hubs such as Port Authority Bus Terminal and Grand Central Station, both located in Manhattan, New York City, United States.

Another problem highlighted is the poor integration of bus system with the station, resulting in inefficient usage and confusion among travelers. As said in my previous article, in order to build a transport hub, we need to have a robust plan, make it future proof and have excellent integration across services.

In general, KL Sentral has already been doing its job greatly as rail transport hub. However, it needs to improve on its way of handing bus and taxi service.

Read more here:

  1. [The Star] – Traffic consultants highlight KL Sentral’s failure as the bus hub for Klang Valley
  2. [The Star] – Commuters have difficulty navigating KL Sentral’s haphazard layout

More KTM Komuter stations to have facilities for the disabled (The Star)

The Star Online
Published: Thursday April 15, 2010 MYT 9:06:00 PM
Updated: Thursday April 15, 2010 MYT 9:07:04 PM

More KTM Komuter stations to have facilities for the disabled

by CHRISTINA TAN

KUALA LUMPUR: Access for the disabled will be improved in 10 more KTM Komuter stations, at an estimated cost of RM20mil, under the 10th Malaysian Plan.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat said the Government was determined to ensure sufficient public transportation facilities for the physically-challenged group.

The stations are Kepong, Batu Tiga, Klang, UKM, Bangi, Kuala Lumpur, Tanjung Malim, Putra, Nilai and Padang Jawa.

Upgrades to five stations – Bandar Tasik Selatan, Serdang, Shah Alam, Rawang and Sungai Buloh – were near completion, he added.

A total of RM10mil was allocated under the Ninth Malaysian Plan to build lifts, ramps for wheelchairs, special toilets and parking lots at these five stations, he said.

Ong said the upgrading project was being extended to other public transportations such as airlines and bus services.

"I was also on wheelchair before and I know how they feel and need for the facilities," he said, after visiting Sungai Buloh and Serendah Komuter stations Thursday.

Meanwhile, Ong said the ministry was also exploring the possibility of modifying existing railway tracks in the country to accommodate high-speed trains.

He said existing tracks, suitable for trains running at not more than 140kph, were too narrow for high-speed trains that could reach between 320kph and 350kph.

onetwenty: Nampaknya kerajaan kita sudah semakin prihatin akan nasib golongan kurang upaya. Hari demi hari, kita pasti mendengar liputan media berkenaan masalah-masalah yang dialami golongan OKU. Baguslah, satu pencapaian yang semakin baik untuk negara kita.

Tidak kisah, siapa yang memerintah. Asalkan minda masyarakat semakin terbuka dan ilmu dalam dada semakin banyak, sudah cukup baik.

Nampaknya juga KTMB semakin mendapat perhatian pihak kerajaan. Saya amat gembira dengan pengkhabaran ini. Harapan saya agar KTMB terus dibantu bagi memastikan kelangsungan nyawanya seiring dengan penyedia perkhidmatan transit yang lain.