Commuters welcome resumption of KTM train service between JB and Woodlands

Commuters said travelling by train is faster and more convenient than taking a bus. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) train service between Johor Bahru and Woodlands restarted on Sunday (June 19) after being suspended for more than two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its resumption was welcomed by commuters, who said travelling by train is faster and more convenient than taking a bus or going by car.

Ms Elaine Ng, 33, who stayed up past 3am on June 13 to secure tickets to JB the moment they went on sale, said she prefers taking the train because it beats getting stuck in a road traffic jam on the Causeway.

"When I went to JB by car last month on a Saturday morning, it took about three hours for me to get there because of how busy it was," said Ms Ng, who is a logistics manager.

Another commuter, 44-year-old healthcare worker Stephanie Lee, said a perk of taking the train was not having to wake up early in the morning to beat the crowd at the Woodlands checkpoint.

"With tickets bought in advance, we just have to arrive before boarding time and we are guaranteed a seat," she said.

Ms Lee added that immigration clearance is also faster as the passport is stamped by both Singapore and Malaysian officers before commuters board the train.

"So it saves time from having to go through immigration twice (which happens when) you take a bus," she said.

Also known as the Tebrau Shuttle, the train service was suspended on March 24, 2020, to curb the spread of Covid-19.

It now runs 31 trips daily - with 18 from JB Sentral to Woodlands and 13 from Woodlands to JB Sentral. Each trip is about five minutes.

Trains to JB run from 8.30am to 11.45pm, while those to Woodlands run from 5am to 10.45pm. Around 7,000 passengers are expected to use the service daily, with trip capacity at 320 passengers.

A KTM train leaving the Woodlands Train Checkpoint for Johor Bahru on June 19, 2022. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

The ticket costs $5 for a trip from Woodlands to JB, and RM5 (S$1.60) from JB to Woodlands. They are sold about a month in advance.

In comparison, the cross-border bus services run by SMRT and Transtar Travel cost about $2.

Tickets for popular time slots around the weekends, like Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, have mostly sold out, according to the KTM website.

When The Straits Times arrived at the Woodlands Train Checkpoint around 9am, there was a line of about 50 commuters waiting to board the 9.45am train.

Among them was Mr Tay Kai Xian, a 26-year-old financial risk consultant, who was visiting Malaysia for the first time since the pandemic.

"It's more convenient now as we don't have to carry physical tickets with us. We only need to show our passports to board the train," he said.

Those who had taken the train previously said it has been refurbished and looks cleaner than before.

Ms S. H. Wan, 32, an accountant who returned to Singapore after visiting her family in JB, said: "The train looks new and I felt very comfortable in it."

She added: "Though almost all the seats were occupied, it's still much less crowded than taking the bus."

Around 7,000 passengers are expected to use the service daily, with trip capacity at 320 passengers. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Mr S. T. Liang, a 42-year-old project manager in the gaming industry, said his train to Woodlands was delayed for about 25 to 30 minutes.

"Our train was supposed to depart at 10am but we were told that there were some technical issues. It surprised me because today is the first day the train service is resuming, so everything should run smoothly.

"We have kids with us, so it was slightly inconvenient, but other than that, immigration processes were very smooth."

The train service runs 31 trips daily - with 18 from JB Sentral to Woodlands and 13 from Woodlands to JB Sentral. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Many commuters said that they will make more frequent trips to Malaysia now that the train service has restarted.

Ms Nuraishah Hamza, 37, who used to go to JB once a month before the pandemic, said she might resume doing so.

"It's very convenient - we can skip the snaking queues to cross the Causeway and immigration (clearance) is also faster," said Ms Hamza, who is a civil servant.

"A shopping trip or staycation is just a train ride away."

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