Goodbye Ekspres Rakyat

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.

*text originally found in a previous post.

25112 Pulau Tioman on duty for 2up Ekspres Rakyat from Singapore to Butterworth.

The Ekspres Rakyat to me is my impression of the flagship of KTM. It was my very first train ride from Singapore to Kluang, and my beginning train ride on my first trip to Bangkok by train from Singapore. It also made the best daytime journeys for my other trips to Kuala Lumpur.

The Ekspres Rakyat was also the second-last passenger train to enter Tanjung Pagar on 30 June 2011 and the last empty rake* to leave Singapore soil.

*empty rake = not for passenger service.

The Ekspres Rakyat also evolves with KTM’s progress. Since I won’t be around for the very last run of the Ekspres Rakyat, I took a personal trip before I leave for my longest train trip yet. I used a MobTicket for my journey, the latest and most convenient ticket type to be used on KTM Intercity networks.

Passengers at KL Sentral waiting for the Ekspres Rakyat to JB Sentral.

Of course, a true Ekspres Rakyat trip won’t be complete without some delays. This is, however, pretty rare nowadays ever since the completion of the electrified double track between Padang Besar and Gemas. Nevertheless, delays mean more time to be spent on the train – more value for money, sort of, since this trip is about being on board the Ekspres Rakyat and not about the destination.

The train arrived at 2.21pm, which means departure would only be at 2.30pm.

25204 Mutiara stands by for the journey to JB Sentral. This locomotive hauled the last ever southbound Eastern and Oriental Express bound for Singapore on 11 June 2011.

The Ekspres Rakyat travels smoothly on the double track between Butterworth and Gemas, lacking the feel of a traditional locomotive-hauled train ride, but I guess modernization has to take place in order for improvements to be made.

Even the modern Pulau Sebang (Tampin) station has convenient access to multiple platforms, as compared to a single side platform last time.

An early dinner on board the Ekspres Rakyat. No freshly-cooked food on board anymore, this is a microwaved box of Bee Hoon Goreng. It’s not the tastiest train food, but it does satisfy hunger on board the train. Gone are the days where station vendors walk along the platforms selling their food, or even the adrenaline rush of getting off the train to the station canteen to quickly purchase dinner (which they have pre-packed) before the train departs in less than 2 minutes.

The Ekspres Rakyat returns to the old-world charm between Gemas and JB Sentral, but not for long as the electrified double track is expected to be completed to JB Sentral in 2020.

And of course, an Ekspres Rakyat journey is not complete without even more unscheduled delays on a single track line. Despite our delay, we had to further wait in the loop line of Genuang station for a passing cement train which was too long to enter the station.

The last sunset I will ever see on board the Ekspres Rakyat.

The Ekspres Rakyat safely arrives at JB Sentral with around 1 hour’s worth of delays, but nonetheless, an excellent and convenient ride from city centre to city centre.

The Ekspres Rakyat always had the newest coaches, from the then-new Eksekutif Dingin, to the then-new Hyundai coaches, and today, the latest ASC from INKA. Hopefully, these coaches will be transferred to run on a new train should there be timetable changes.

Despite having the newest rolling stock, the modernization of the railway have surpassed the abilities and desired functions of the Ekspres Rakyat in terms of travel time, and it is probably time to give way to the current standard of faster ETS trains in order not to slow the modern double-track sectors down. Once offering the fastest and highest class of service between Butterworth and Singapore, the Ekspres Rakyat is now regularly overtaken on schedule by faster ETS trains and sometimes even Komuter trains if the Ekspres Rakyat is unable to keep up to the desired speed and timetable. Despite it being perceived as slow today, the Ekspres Rakyat is still appreciated by locals and tourists alike.

The last day of operations of the Ekspres Rakyat will be on 8 May 2016.

Ekspres Rakyat, you have served the people well for 40 years. Thank you for your service, and farewell.


  1. Kembara was a Singaporean band not Malaysian as stated although the three members from Mark I eventually made their way to Malaysia.

  2. Good job for that. Wonder if the 20/21 Express Peninsular will face the same faith after the Gemas – JB Sentral EDTP project completed.

  3. Hello,

    Is there a reason to why express rakyat is terminated? Are they rationalizing the services or completely phasing the service out for good? Meanwhile is there no trains for the morning ?

    Please advise.

    1. There are trains in the morning, depending on where you are travelling to and from. The section between Butterworth and Gemas is served by ETS services. The section between Gemas and JB Sentral is served by the Ekspres Selatan.

  4. I just had the opportunity to read on this interesting write up although long overdue. I too have very fond memories of the Express Rakyat as I travelled with my dear late mother many times to Ipoh over the years. We enjoyed the sceneries while travelling and had great conversations together making observations at different stations. Seeing the familiar pictures sent me back in time. Thank you for bringing back the memories. On a separate note I don’t understand why there cannot be a direct train service from JB to KL while the double tracking to JB is taking place at least over the weekends. Why not even a train service starting and ending in Woodlands, Singapore. Trains starting and ending in Singapore have always been popular without having to switch at JB I feel. Again this direct service can be over a Fri/Sat/Sun. Food for thought.

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