A new shuttle train service launched yesterday between Singapore and Johor Baru (JB) proved to be popular with Malaysians, who took advantage of the quicker border crossing to get to work and school here.
The Shuttle Tebrau, run by Malaysian rail operator Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM), ferries commuters between the Woodlands Train Checkpoint and JB Sentral in five minutes.
Tickets for the first two train services leaving JB Sentral yesterday - at 5.30am and 7am - were sold out. There are a total of seven trips from Johor and another seven from Woodlands every day. Each trip carries about 320 passengers.
Secondary 4 student Hew Sin Hui, a Malaysian who studies here, was one of those who took the 5.30am shuttle. "Usually I would take the bus, and sometimes there's a (traffic) jam (on the Causeway). There's no guarantee that I could get to school on time," said the 16-year-old from Admiralty Secondary School.
Commuters said the shuttle - which costs RM5 (S$1.80) from JB and $5 from Woodlands - was more efficient than taking the bus, which could take between 45 minutes and over two hours, including queuing for the bus, Customs clearance and traffic jams.
Shuttle trains leaving from Singapore yesterday morning, however, were relatively empty. On the 6.30am train which The Straits Times took from Woodlands, there were fewer than 10 passengers on board. One of them, freelance photographer Bobby Teh, 68, said: "The train timings are not so good. They run only during the morning and evening peak hours."
The departure times from Woodlands station are 6.30am, 8am, 9.30am, 5pm, 6.30pm, 8pm and 11pm. From JB Sentral, the trains leave at 5.30am, 7am, 8.30am, 4pm, 5.30pm, 7pm and 10pm.
Mr Teh said the $5 ticket was also expensive, compared with the bus which costs just $2.
However, retiree Lee Chee Hua, 64, said that taking the train was hassle-free because he could clear both the Singapore and Malaysia immigration counters at Woodlands itself. "There's also no fear of a traffic jam," he said.
With the new shuttle service, trains to and from KL Sentral, Butterworth and Gemas - which previously terminated at Woodlands stations - will now end at JB Sentral.
Commuters will have to use the Shuttle Tebrau to travel between JB and Singapore. Malaysian Edwin Kan, 24, who works in Singapore as a travel agent, said: "It's not very convenient as travellers have to change trains now."
Usually I would take the bus, and sometimes there's a (traffic) jam (on the Causeway). There's no guarantee that I could get to school on time.
HEW SIN HUI a Malaysian Secondary 4 student who studies here and was one of those who took the 5.30am shuttle.
A 62-year-old Malaysian, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lee, said he took the train from KL at 11pm on Tuesday and was scheduled to arrive at JB Sentral at 6.45am yesterday. This would allow him to take the 7am train to Singapore.
But due to a delay, he arrived only at 7.10am, and he had to wait almost 1 1/2 hours to catch the 8.30am service.
"KTM must look into the timings, and allow for more time to pick up the passengers on the overnight train," he said.