While the website is rather challenging to find your way around and the English translation is imaginative to say the least, we managed to find out the most important information regarding types of trains, fares and timetables to help plan our trip.
To suit our purposes, we decided to catch the new Electric Train Service on the journey north and return on the night train the following evening.
Journey North via the Electric Train Service (ETS)
This is a recent addition to the service as double tracking to the north has only recently been completed although it has been available between Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh for some time. New train sets recently purchased will replace the older units currently in service as soon as testing is completed. This is currently expected to be during September or October 2015.
This is a relatively new service but although using the older train sets, we found it to be efficient and we arrived in to Butterworth only a few minutes after the scheduled time. The seats were comfortable and the current trains have adequate overhead storage for normal cabin sized bags. The train is an express between larger stations only and seats are allocated. There is space at either end of the carriage for larger bags.
The current trains have tray tables but no in-seat power supply, which will be available when the new train sets come into service. There is a television screen at either end of the carriage which displays video of the on-board facilities as well as the current speed. They also play a movie on a loop with subtitles in English. We watched Journey to the Centre of the Earth three times. The washroom facilities were clean and there is access for wheelchairs. There are two carriages on the 6 car train with washroom facilities located in car B and E.
A small bistro is located at the end of Car C, which serves reasonably priced pre-packed nasi lemak and fried mee-hoon and pre-mix tea and coffee. You can take your food and drinks back to your seat or make use of the counter and stools along the windows to watch the view as you eat.
Speed and on-time result
The ride was smooth with speeds up to around 147kph being the maximum we noticed and we arrived in to Butterworth about 7 minutes after the time indicated on our ticket.
Journey South via the night service Langkawi Express (Senandung Langkawi)
The night train from Langkawi makes a fairly lengthy stop at Butterworth to pick up passengers on the way south. We were unable to get the Premium Class tickets so had to opt for the slightly cheaper Superior tickets.
The curtained berths were arranged lengthwise one up/one down along the train on both sides of a centre walkway. There is a larger window for the bottom berth and the carriages are air conditioned. The ride was very smooth and even though the upper bunk was supplied with a safety strap, there was virtually no side to side movement. Probably the only annoying thing was the constant message beeping from a nearby passenger which thankfully stopped before midnight.
The bed was made up with clean linen, a doubled up sheet and a pillow with case. There isn’t any real place to store decent sized luggage that was easy to see and they wouldn’t fit underneath the lower bunk, most people with bags, placed them by the side of their berth. Announcements weren’t intrusive with the only announcement being the one made before arrival into Kuala Lumpur.
The toilets weren’t wonderful. They are the the older type of toilets and though not exactly dirty, they were at best adequate. There was paper and the sink and flush worked, although the floor was wet by the time the journey ended.
We didn’t try the restaurant car, but as we passed on the way to our carriage, we could see that it seemed to have similar fare on offer to our northward journey and there were also tables and seating to cope with larger numbers of patrons.
Speed and on-time result
We pulled in to KL Sentral Station at 6.10am, five minutes early. The train didn’t have a speed display, but it maintained a steady rate and stops were only at the major stations.
General Information on Malaysian Trains
With the on-going electrification and modernisation of the Malaysian train network, intercity trains seem to be finding a popular place in people’s travel plans. The popular Kommuter network now carries passengers on regular services to and from the North, South and West of Kuala Lumpur and connect with the Inter-city train network at Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station.Tickets can be purchased online unless you wish to purchase a concession ticket (see below). You do not have to make your purchase from the departure station.
Types of trains
The Intercity train network runs the length of the country on the western side of the peninsular between Padang Besar in the North (where they connect with the Thai network) and Johor Bahru in the South. Trains to the East coast branch off the southern line at Gemas before they head north-east to Kota Bahru at the top of the eastern side of the peninsular. This service was badly impacted by severe floods at the end of 2014 and is still not fully functional. You will need to check with the website or at a station for the current status for your destination.
For the Electric Train Service ETS , you may purchase tickets either over the counter at any of the larger stations in the network, or Online. You may purchase tickets up to 30 days ahead of your journey. The trains currently in use are expected to be replaced by new train sets with updated facilities when these complete testing, expected to be in September / October 2015. The current service of one daily trip up and one down between Kuala Lumpur and Padang Besar is expected to be expanded when these new trains come on line.
Schedule & Fares
These are the currently available fare and timetable information available. They are updated quite quickly when these change. You may download from these links.
Electric Train Service: ETS Schedule & Fares
Concession fares must be booked at a ticket counter as you need to provide the proof of eligibility.
KTM Rail Pass (International Passport, other than Singapore)
Passengers 60 and above 50% Any photo ID will be acceptable.
Disabled Passengers 50% An appropriate card with identifies your status.
Getting from Butterworth to George Town
As the Butterworth station is over the Penang Strait from the island of Penang where George Town is located, you will need to catch the ferry to reach the island. This seems to be quite easy, although it is a few minutes walk to the ferry terminal, under cover. The Butterworth Station is new and there is a lift which you can use to reach the lower floor where the walkway is located. However, you need to negotiate two sets of steps before you reach the section where there are wheelchairs and a buggy to help those with mobility issues. Although we looked for ramps or a lift, we could find none.
Once you reach the Ferry terminal, you exchange notes for coins, as coins in the entry slots. The journey costs RM1.20 for adults and 60sen for children. There is no charge between George Town and Butterworth.
There are two types of ferry, which run at intervals of about half an hour. Both take cars on the lower deck, but some have exclusively foot passengers above and the other type has a mix of cars and foot passengers. Those with mixed traffic take on the cars first before allowing ‘walkers’ to board. The ‘mixed’ ferry also has a small snack bar. See the photos below.