KUALA LUMPUR: Many of Malaysia’s ageing diesel-run passenger trains will be turned into special holiday coaches this year, along the lines of the famous Orient Express.
KTM Bhd said these old trains, made up of Intercity coaches, will be replaced by the newer Electric Train Service (ETS) on the Gemas-Padang Besar line by the second quarter of this year.
However, they are not about to join the scrap heap just yet, but see service as holiday trains catering to old-school rail lovers.
“I anticipate that by May, all those (Intercity) trains (on Gemas to Padang Besar) should be replaced completely by ETS,” KTMB president Datuk Sarbini Tijan said.
“However, for those lovers of conventional trains or those who like heritage, we will come up with a new service, running the old trains as excursion trains,” he said in an interview last week.
Sarbini said three old-school trips were coming after April: Tumpat-KL, Kuala Lipis-Kuala Krau-Gua Musang-Kuala Lipis and Johor Baru-Haadyai.
The Tumpat journey, he said, was likely to be the first and that it would start after the Kemubu rail bridge, which was destroyed by the 2014 floods, was ready by early April.
The JB-Haadyai leg was likely to start from May onwards, with Sarbini adding that it probably won’t run daily but will have “regular intervals”.
For decades, a typical Intercity service from KL to Butterworth (350km) would have taken about eight hours.
The rail network’s double-track and electrification upgrades saw the ETS coming in, halving travel times.
Today, the fastest ETS trip going from KL to Padang Besar at the Thai border – a 500km journey – can be done in under five hours.
When asked if the service would be similar to the luxury Orient Express, Sarbini said they would be geared for foreign (including Asean) and domestic tourists, although he did not say how much a trip would cost.
He added that KTMB wanted to take advantage of tourism in Malaysia.
“There are so many attractions along the railway line. They’re just not developed at all right now,” he said.
This, he said, led KTMB to approach tourist operators in both Thailand and Indonesia, adding that people from both countries were very interested in what KTMB had to offer.
Sarbini added that the double tracking from Gemas to JB was due to be completed by end-2019.-thestar