10:45 (Malay time)
Much as I’d liked to have lingered longer in Georgetown it’s time to hit the road and begin my journey south towards Singapore. I’ll miss this place, but I know I’ll be back again sometime. This is such a fascinating multicultural place with rich history I could never tire of it. Add in the fantastic food and the fact it’s a crossroads for so many travellers, what’s not to like?
The weather’s overcast making it a good day to travel. I didn’t want to risk my back (or the wheels on my case) so I got a taxi from Star Lodge to the ferry. terminal – well worth the 12 ringgit (just over £2) it cost me). With the limited capacity ferries only running hourly now I’ve arrived in plenty of time to get to the front of the queue for the 11:30 ferry before catching the 12:45 train from Butterworth.
For once, I’m going to write a rolling blog throughout the trip. I’m travelling ‘Platinum’ class this time, which is the Malaysian version of 1st which should make for a relaxing trip. It takes just over four hours to reach KL Sentral nowadays, a great improvement on the past. The only shame is that services aren’t more frequent with just five ETS trains a day linking the two cities.
There’s more than a dozen other Europeans in the queue for the ferry. I suspect most of them will be doing the same as me as the trains the best way to travel. Plus, Standard class only costs £16!
11:22. The ferry has disgorged the inbound passengers, now it’s our time to board. These ex-Langkawi boats are nowhere near as much fun as the old ferries but at least they get you there (most of the time).
12:45. (Malay time).
We’re off! Platinum class in these new ETS sets is rather good..
Almost as soon as we’d left we were served lunch. It may have been prepared and served in a plastic tray, beut the quality of the chicken, bamboo shoots and green rice was rather good.
These particular ETS sets are from the second batch supplied by CRRC Zhuzhon Locomotive Ltd but assembled in Malaysia in 2018. Like most Chinese rolling stock quality (or rather the lack of it) and attention to detail are the issues. Despite only being only five years old the sets are fraying at the edges. Some of the windows have blown so are full of condensation, paintwork’s flaking and nothing really seems to have been made to last. That said, what did KTM specify in the contracts – and was there a warranty? At least they’re doing a bit better than the SCS Komuter sets.
Build quality aside, they ride well. We’re currently bowling along at 139kph so the PIS screen above the doors tells me. Oh, and they don’t leak – which is just as well as it’s chucking it down outside as we approach Taipeng.
13:55 (Malay time)
We’ve just passed through one of the new tunnels between Taipeng and Padang Rengas that were bored as part of the line’s modernisation back in the 2000s. The old British built single track line used to stagger through these jungle-clad hills – which was great fun if you were a railway enthusiast, but not if you were an ordinary passenger keen to get to their destination.
This part of Malaysia is very attractive because its so hilly. Whilst the lowlands around the railway are cultivated by palm oil and rubber plantations and the occasional fish farm, the high hills with their lush jungle are mostly left untouched.
14:40 (Malay time).
We’ve just left the town of Ipoh. Its an interesting place I’ve visited a couple of times. I was another colonial centre famous for mining so not only does it have an impressive Edwardian station building it also boasts an attractive old town centre. I’ll post a couple of links to pictures later. This area provides the railway with a lot of freight traffic due to the massive rail-served cement plant at Tasek. The size of the rail yards around the town reflect this.
Next stop after Ipoh was Batu Gajah which has become a railway centre nowadays. The new depot and associated sites which include a CRRC plant replaced the old British-built Sentul works which was Malaysia’s Crewe, employing thousands of people. Batu Gajah’s far more up to date, built to maintain diesel and electric fleets – not steam!
As soon as we departed the staff fed us again, this time with a snack box containing peanuts, a kitkat and a carton of apple juice to accompany a hot drink (I plumped for coffee) as well as a Danish pastry and cupcake.
15:40 (Malay time)
We’ve arrived at Tanjung Malim which is the Northernmost extremity of KL’s ‘Komuter’ network. There’s a few stabling roads here, one of which contains two badly damaged cars from set SCS06. They’ve clearly been in a collision, but what with I wonder? No-one appears to be in a hurry to do anything with them as I passed them on my way North over a month ago. I’ve just Googled these class 92s and found out this set was badly damaged at this location way back in October 2018! 6 clearly isn’t a lucky number as this was the 2nd accident the set was involved in, and it was hit by a Class 26…
16:30 (Malay time)
We’ve crawled into Sungai Buloh which is the start of single line working through to KL Sentral whilst the second line’s being re-laid and rebuilt. It plays hell with capacity in the Klang valley and I’m hoping to have a closer look at work whilst I’m here.
Time to round up the day from ‘Bigland Towers’ KL branch! My train arrived into KL Sentral spot on time. A one stop hop on the MRT system to Pasir Seni got me back to the City Lodge Hotel on the edge of Chinatown where I stayed earlier. I now have a room next door to my old one!
The rain that’s followed me all the way from Penang had remained over KL all day so I’ve not been tempted to venture out. Instead it been a case of getting my new ‘office’ set up. I like the rooms here as they have good desk space by a window with plenty of power sockets. Looking at the forecast the weather’s going to be the same tomorrow but I’m happy to have a day working, catch up on picture editing and UK stuff whilst having the odd wander for food. Here’s not as sociable a place as Georgetown so there’s no distractions in that way.
Thankfully my back problems didn’t cause any problem with travelling. Maybe it’s finally on the mend which will be a relief – especially with the fact in 10 days I’m going to be spending an awful lot of time glued to aircraft seats!
Right, now it’s time to get on with a few others bits. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s rolling blog. One thing I haven’t explored on this trip is KL’s monorail. I intend to put that right before I leave…
To end the day, here’s a couple of pictures from Butterworth. The ‘new’ ferries may be lousy for taking pictures from compared to their counterparts, but the new shopping complex adjacent to the ferry terminal has a multi-story car park above it. Here’s the view from the 8th floor.
I’ve a small favour to ask…
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