Ekspres Rakyat: Butterworth and Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru by Train

The Ekspres Rakyat is no longer in operation.

There are no more direct train services between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur or northern destinations. You must change trains at JB Sentral and Gemas.

Since its inception in 1976, the Ekspres Rakyat has been running daily under KTM. Originally operating with Economy Class coaches only, it received the then-modern Eksekutif Dingin, before changing to the current Hyundai coaches in 1992. It plied the Bukit Mertajam – Johor Bahru route before being extended to Butterworth and Singapore (Tanjong Pagar), before it was truncated to ply between KL Sentral and Singapore only due to the Rawang – Ipoh Double Tracking Project. It restarted services north of KL in 2007 to Ipoh, before plying the entire original route back to Butterworth in 2008. It was ultimately truncated from Singapore to Woodlands CIQ on 1 July 2011, and from Woodlands CIQ to JB Sentral on 1 July 2015 following the inception of the Shuttle Tebrau.

This train is so popular that Kembara, a Singaporean rock band based in Malaysia, composed a song about it in 1981, and has been a hit ever since, even performing it recently at the Esplanade Concert Hall in Singapore and Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur.

At its heyday, the Ekspres Rakyat consisted of 13 passenger coaches – 10 second class seats (ASC) and 3 first class seats (AFC), together with 2 generator cars (PGC) and a canteen, or buffet coach.

This is the original first class seat coach with Mugunghwa seats from South Korea, reconditioned with a new outer fabric.

And this is the new locally refurbished first class coach, which RailTravel Station travelled in.

This trip report is for the 1dn Ekspres Rakyat from KL Sentral to Woodlands CIQ.

After an on time departure from KL Sentral, the train skips Kajang station and heads straight for Seremban, overtaking a Komuter service along the way.

The train makes a brief stop at Seremban for more passengers to board.

After more passengers fill up the train, the buffet coach staff go around handing out sugared donuts and a bottle of mineral water for all first class passengers. This is included in the ticket.

You could also buy more hearty food and drinks from the trolley they will push around from time to time, or just head to the buffet coach.

With the train, you would expect to see another side of Malaysia right?

Yes, you’re right, surprisingly. The route between Gemas and Seremban went under a double tracking and electrification programme as well, straightening out the route, building viaducts like an MRT system and widening the railway land around it. It’s surprising that not all of the land surrounding the new alignment was acquired for the project.

Even these cows has their home and food untouched.

More kampungs. See the airy twin-roofs? It’s a sign that we’re entering the state of Melaka, this is one of their typical traditional house designs.

The stations between Senawang and Gemas all have similar new designs, so the photo above could have been taken anywhere with the same look and background, which makes it for a boring journey than before – no local hawkers coming up to sell you food and drinks, and no need to climb the coach’s ladders by the door.

Just for your information, this photo was taken at Gemas.

After Gemas, it feels more nostalgic with the single track and shorter platforms, height and lengthwise, and local life beside the station, without any complicating ticketing areas and staircases, escalators or elevators.

From a passenger’s view on board first class, this isn’t too bad at all, for the cost of 68 ringgit (SGD25.50).

First class seats can also be rotated 180 degrees if you’re travelling in a group. And as compared to any other seating classes, your seat always faces the front.

The Ekspres Rakyat crosses with the Shuttle 62up at Kulai station.

You will end up at JB Sentral as usual for Malaysian immigration and customs formalities before reboarding the train for Woodlands CIQ, where the best part of the journey begins as you overtake the massive jam of cars and buses on the causeway heading to Singapore as well, but while they might take an hour or more just from checkpoint to checkpoint, your journey will take 5 minutes or less, station to station.

Click here for the timetable of trains plying between Singapore and Bangkok and transfer combinations.


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