A dream idea to reinstate Ekspres Wau & Ekspres Sinaran Selatan
“Ada tren dari KL ke Tumpat tak???” and “Bila Ekspres Wau kembali operasi lagi?????” are still surprisingly common comments on KTM Berhad‘s Facebook page, despite being more than 5 years since its demise.
Constraints in the Klang Valley KVDT upgrade of railway infrastructure, lack of ETS and Intercity platforms at KL Sentral, and of course revenue, are part and parcel of why KTM Intercity train services were severely rationalised in 2016 with ETS trains running on the electrified double track sectors, and KTM Intercity trains running on non-electrified single track sectors.
It also comes as a shocker to me as despite more than a thousand people celebrating the return of the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran, it still runs more than half-empty on most days from now till 31 December 2021.
And so I thought, there has to be a way to do this to mitigate all these problems and still provide a direct train to places people want to go to.
Taking the long travel and dwell time of the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran between Gemas to JB Sentral and back to Gemas, I figured that it is actually possible to run trains to KL Sentral while the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran rests. A train moving = more train services = more revenue for KTM, I hope.
Behold, I present to you my East Coast Plan.
RailTravel Station’s Idea for Ekspres Rakyat Timuran, Ekspres Wau & Ekspres Sinaran Selatan
The Ekspres Rakyat Timuran travels right through Peninsular Malaysia from Johor Bahru Sentral Railway Station (JB Sentral) to Tumpat Railway Station and back. It also runs a long parallel sector to the former Ekspres Wau, between Gemas Railway Station and Tumpat Railway Station.
Behold my dream timetable:
My new proposed KTM Intercity timetable requires no additional coaches from those that are being used now. This is worked out by quickly u-turning rakes and keeping them moving for passenger service.
This timetable reflects 1 cycle of 2-rake usage, and so there will be 2 cycles (and thus 4 rakes) needed for this timetable to function – a total of 8 ADNS, 20 ASC, and 4 ABC for the popular Maggi Sup which I cannot comprehend.
Note that I took the AFC out of service as I don’t think KTM has 4 of them still running constantly, and also to simplify things. Passengers who want more space can just buy 2 side-by-side ASC seats instead – it will still be cheaper than a single AFC ticket.
Here’s my thought process on assembling this new KTM Intercity timetable:
With the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran 26up and 27dn being the longest distance train in Malaysia and the timetable already set, I did not touch the existing timetable much so as to not disrupt Shuttle Timuran services like crossing points. I did, however, add stops at Layang-Layang, Rengam, Paloh, Bekok, and Labis. This is to replace the Ekspres Selatan train service which I’ll talk about below.
The Ekspres Wau which everyone seems to love is now back, with a simple timetabling logic. Just like the Ekspres Kenali before its final demise, my dream reinstated Ekspres Wau will run combined with the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran between Tumpat and Gemas. It will then be detached at Gemas and another locomotive will take the train up to Sentral Kuala Lumpur Railway Station (KL Sentral).
This logic also applies in the reverse direction from KL Sentral to Tumpat where the Ekspres Wau departs from KL Sentral at night and meets the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran at Gemas where both trains will run combined as a single train up to Tumpat.
The combined Ekspres Rakyat Timuran and Ekspres Wau will be formed of Loco + PGC + 2 ADNS + 1 ABC + 5 ASC + 2 ADNS + 1 ABC + 5 ASC + PGC.
I gave the Ekspres Wau the numbers 28up and 29dn as a continuation from the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran series of numbers, and also to reinstate the actual former train numbers of the popular night train.
With the new Ekspres Wau, ETS Gold 9420up and 942dn can be truncated back to KL Sentral as the Ekspres Wau timings cover it. A direct train is also way more convenient for passengers than having a new train with a transfer and double fares.
And mitigating the platform and depot issue at KL Sentral, where should the idle rake go to after arrival and before departure? With the sheer amount of time, a new train can be reinstated, aptly named…
Ekspres Sinaran Selatan
With so much dwell time during the day, the Ekspres Sinaran Selatan can also be reinstated. With this new timetable, I decided to number the Ekspres Sinaran Selatan as 10up and 11dn so that it’s the first numbers of the 10 series as a nice restart.
The Ekspres Sinaran Selatan 11dn is formed by u-turning the Ekspres Wau 29dn after arrival at KL Sentral. This would be a new day train from KL Sentral to JB Sentral. to avoid using KL Sentral depot at any time which seems to be a constraint back in 2016, and may still be a constraint today. After arrival at JB Sentral, it will u-turn to form the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran 26up back up to Tumpat.
On the reverse direction, after the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran 27dn has arrived at JB Sentral, the Ekspres Sinaran Selatan 10up is formed to operate as the day train from JB Sentral to KL Sentral, and thereafter it forms the Ekspres Wau 28up when u-turned at KL Sentral to operate from KL Sentral to Tumpat.
With the new Ekspres Sinaran Selatan, ETS Platinum 9371dn and 9372up can be truncated back to KL Sentral as the Ekspres Sinaran Selatan timings cover it. A direct train is also way more convenient for passengers than having a new train with a transfer and double fares.
The Ekspres Sinaran Selatan kills 2 birds with 1 stone by avoiding the use of KL Sentral depot and reinstating a KL Sentral to JB Sentral train which is sorely needed to link up the 2 populous cities in Malaysia.
This highly lucrative route is serviced like every 15 minutes or so by multiple express bus operators out of Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS), most point-to-point even, and it is highly worrying that KTM thought that this route can be broken up for the past 5 years.
What happens to Ekspres Selatan?
With the low demand of the short Ekspres Selatan sector between JB Sentral and Gemas, and to allow less disruption for Gemas-Johor Bahru Electrified Double-Tracking Project (EDTP) works, I decided to just remove all Ekspres Selatan trains altogether. This then provides the abundance of ASC (ICF-Padu Sedia) coaches I have assigned for each rake.
In its replacement, notice that I have made the Ekspres Sinaran Selatan and Ekspres Rakyat Timuran stop at all stations between JB Sentral and Gemas, including Layang-Layang, Rengam, Paloh, Bekok, and Labis. This also helps to provide a direct link between the smaller stations and KL Sentral, something which express buses cannot really do yet.
What happens to cleaning?
With the short turnaround time at all terminals except for Tumpat, I propose to cut some frills for all ADNS passengers. While seat coaches can be cleaned quickly and simply, the ADNS takes a much longer time to dress up as it comes with beds and bedding.
I propose that passengers ourselves be responsible for bedding.
Upon boarding and after the TC has checked for tickets, he will then issue the bedsheet and blanket (which are the same thing actually) for passengers to put on the mattress themselves.
Before disembarking, the passenger removes the bedding from the mattress and rolls it up to be placed within the berth or along the aisle if alighting at the last station.
The cleaners job will be focused only on wiping and collecting the used sheets. The new sheets will be in a fresh bag to be cared off to the TC. No more laying out the bedding for each passenger by the cleaning crew, thus saving them lots of time.
This is already being done on China and Russian night trains, and nothing revolutionary. I remember doing this on the Trans-Siberian for my own berth.
Half of this idea was also done before on the marathon Ekspres Sinaran Utara – Senandung Sutera – Ekspres Sinaran Selatan – Senandung Mutiara series of trains when the blanket was simply laid on the ADNS mattress as a folded square with the tight turnaround times of the 4 trains with 2 rakes.
What happens to locomotive and PGC maintenance and diesel?
I suggest that the locomotive and PGC be changed at Gemas and Kempas Baru whenever possible to mitigate diesel and maintenance issues. It may not be possible to top up diesel in KL Sentral, and backtracking is required to Kempas Baru from JB Sentral to do anything. To assist with this, I have padded the timings a little bit where possible at Gemas and Kempas Baru.
The locomotive then gets comfortable long hours of downtime for the maintenance crew to work on, up to 24 hours, while the rakes continue moving around Peninsular Malaysia enhancing rail connectivity. A few minutes of no electricity on board the train at a station won’t kill anyone, but 5 hours in the middle of the jungle might be a disaster.
There’s no change to existing Tumpat arrangements.
With limited KTM Intercity rolling stock, I have managed to pool whatever is left of them together and create longer distance and longer formed trains that actually serve the wants of passengers. It’s not exactly a need though, since if you’re looking for speed, the bus is still the way to go in non-electrified single track sectors in Malaysia.
KTM Berhad, please please please consider using my dream timetable. I really want to take the train if I am able to visit Malaysia again with the upcoming vaccinated travel lane (VTL), but the current timetable makes it really difficult for anyone to use, not to mention the double fares when changing trains at Gemas.