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Having been pretty much confined to Chinatown these past few days so that I could catch up with picture-editing, blogging and financial stuff I spread my wings today. It wasn’t difficult. My hotel room window looks out over the new Pasir Seni underground station on the Kajang line MRT. When I was last here this was still a building site as the central underground section of the new line had yet to open although some of the outlying (elevated) route had. Fast forward to 2023 and history repeats itself, today I used the station for the first time to travel on the first section of the Putrajaya line which only opened in June 2022.

I’m always impressed by the Klang valley metro networks. They’re incredibly photogenic due to the fact most of the routes are elevated and they have amazing backdrops. They’re also a massive investment in public transport which is desperately needed to stem the rise of car dependency and improve air quality in the valley. My one concern is that in the time I’ve seen the network grow I’ve also seen car use grow. Central KL’s traffic jams appear to have got worse, not better and rail ridership remains low (not helped by the poor performance and cuts to the KTM ‘Komuter’ services. Here’s an example of how photogenic the area is.

Metros everywhere! – seen from Kwasa Damansara MRT station. The new Putrajaya services are the trains painted red.

One of the beauties of these routes is that they’re driverless, so passengers get to experience the best seat in the house that’s normally reserved for the driver.

Having changed routes at Kwasa Damansara MRT station I travelled on the Putrajaya line as far as it currently open to the public, which is Kampung Batu, the interchange with KTM Komuter services from central KL to Batu Caves. What a contrast that was. KTM services have been reduced from every 30 mins to hourly, which is a PITH to be honest as they’re not that reliable at the best of times. Still, I did manage to make it to Batu Caves where I grabbed this shot of the local passenger services whilst I waited to see if one of the cement trains would turn up.

I was lucky as soon after one of the popular ‘Blue Tiger’ locomotives turned up with a long cement train and immediately ran round to begin shunting.

The ‘Blue Tiger’ was designed and built by ADtranz. 20 of them were supplied to KTM back in 2003-04. They’re probably the most reliable loco in the fleet. They’re certainly the most popular – and the most powerful. The ‘blue tigers’ weren’t a commercial success for ADtranz or Bombardier – who took them over. Only 61 were ever built.

Moving on from the caves my next stop was at Sentul which was the site of the railways main workshops – the Malayan Crewe that in its heyday was reported to have employed 5000 people. All that’s long gone but there’s still an EMU depot nearby and a few roads full of retired and redundant trains like this.

Literally put out to grass!…This is one of the Class 83 EMUs built by Hyundai and Marubeni in 1996. The 22 3-car sets were one of three different fleets that were the mainstay of KTM Komuter services until 2012 when the new Class 91 EMUs arrived from China. Many like this one are dumped and used as a source of spares to keep their sisters running as they’re used on the ‘Skypark’ airport rail link and also work local services between Butterworth and Padang Besar and Butterworth – Padang Rengas.

In keeping with the colonial theme my final stop was at the magnificent but sadly fading former main station in Kuala Lumpur. I was rather shocked to see how tatty and underused the place is now. It used to be buzzing – even just 6 years ago. Now it’s not just the buildings that are empty, the platforms are too…

Covid seems to have removed a lot of the traffic due to many of the nearby banks, offices and hotels having closed. This has been compounded by the opening of the new MRT route at Pasir Seni. Ironically, the two are linked by a new bridge but that sees hardly any traffic. The main station building is a delightful Indo Saracenic structure that used to house a hotel. I stayed there in 2009. It was very rundown but still quite an experience. Sadly, it closed in 2011. The restaurant on the ground floor has also gone. The concourse of the building became (yet another) half-hearted railway museum but that’s disappeared too, leaving parts of the building occupied by a few railway staff and that’s about it. Meanwhile, the structure’s in slow decline. It’s such a shame. There used to be regular daily freight services from sidings at the North end. Every evening a couple of bogie parcels vans would depart for the north but today I saw these sidings have been lifted, as have the others on the opposite side of the station where you could often find the odd loco stabled. On the bright side, these have been replaced by a pair of electrified tracks for stabling EMUs. Even so, it’s a story of decline, not growth. I’ll have more of a mooch around the building later this week.

Returning home I found the light had changed enough to finally allow me to get a decent picture of this major new addition to the KL skyline. Trying to gauge its size is difficult, especially up-close. That’s my hotel at what appears to be the base of the tower. In reality it’s at least 500m away! Having posted the picture on Twitter I’ve been informed that – at 118 floors tall this edifice is twice as big as the ‘Shard’ in London and is (in fact) the 2nd tallest building in the world!

After my travels I’ve had a quiet evening in, partly helped by the fact we had a very heavy thunderstorm with torrential rain, which was great fun to watch from my hotel room window, but it can’t have been good for business for all the street-traders. Once it stopped I did nip out for food but Chinatown feels very subdued. I’m assuming people are keeping their powder dry for the forthcoming New Year celebrations – as am I!

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