Showing posts with label Malaysian Railway. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Malaysian Railway. Show all posts

Aug 14, 2011

How I Almost 'Sneaked' Into Malaysia Again

ASC on Ekspres Rakyat

In a flash, National Day was over. It has been more than a week since I last updated this blog. The "radio silence" is due to yours truly being out of town for most of the week and the subsequent catching up caused me to lose quite a bit of momentum. In fact I only came back on the night of August 9 after the NDP celebration. It was a close shave at the Johor Bahru CIQ and if Abang was a bit more fussy, I might not have made it back during National Day. What happened?

Jul 26, 2011

Our Prime Minister Lee, Singapore's Chief Railway Fan

Source: MAS

The end of KTM railway operations between Tanjong Pagar and Woodlands and the consequent return of railway land to the state triggered an outpouring of memories and lamentations from the public, of the once active railway line and stations. The last few weeks stretching into July marked the largest photography documentation of the rail corridor, including Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Timah Stations. Suddenly everyone becomes a rail fan, in one way or another. Interestingly if there is such a title as "Chief Rail Fan", much like the scouting movement has a Chief Scout, then one person would be most deserving of this label. Do you know who is he?

Jan 27, 2010

From Singapura to Chiang Mai by Train

Singapura Station
Chiang Mai Station

The year got off to a good start at the promontory. The spectators were treated to a dazzling display of fireworks ushering in the new year, cheering and filming as the pyrotechnic display danced to the music accompaniment. For most revellers, celebration ended after the fireworks, or at dawn, when they hit the hay. Back in my room, I poured over the last bit of data and finished the final preparation. For me, celebration had only just begun.

Dawn is approaching in 2 hours. I have better use the remaining time to catch a wink. Hit the hay. The date now is 1 Jan 2010 and I have a mission at 6am.

Jun 28, 2009

My First and Last Trip on the Tebrau Shuttle Train

People seek thrill in Johor Bahru differently. For some, it is the naughty massage; for others it is the cheap haircut. For me, it is the experience of taking a 'joy-ride' across the causeway by KTM train.

Tebrau Shuttle, plying Kluang - Singapore - Kluang, was introduced on Feb 1, 2009 to "ease the link up of daily commuters from Singapore to the southern part of Malaysia and vice versa". To me, the highlight was the new stop at Danga City Mall (DCM) along Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, operational since Jan 5, 2009. It was the classic win-win situation - more people would visit the mall with the added comfort and convenience of a train and the train operator would see more business due to increased ticket sales. In fact, the usually low-profile Malaysian train service and ulu shopping centre basked in the limelight of our local papers when the station - a halt - was completed. See reports in Straits Times (here) and The New Paper (here and here).

Finally on May 3, I gave in to temptation and visited the naughty bought a ticket to DCM.

Danga City Mall HaltDanga City Mall Halt
Left: Danga City Mall Halt.
Right: The "Station" platform. There is no station, only a sheltered platform. A staircase and gangway lead to the mall.

Promotion Tickets
Promotion ticket to Danga City Mall - SGD 3/RM 3 one way.

At SGD 3.00, the promotion ticket did not burn a hole in my pocket. The ticket was bought on the day itself at Tanjong Pagar. The return ticket was bought at DCM. I think the Singapore and Malaysian transport operators have a 'tit-for-tat' agreement on their tickets. I first learnt that from taking the buses plying Johore Bahru and Singapore. The practice must be so ingrained that KTMB decided to price both tickets equally in different denomination. So the return ticket set me back by SGD 1.25.

Teh Tarik29116 Sepetir
Left: Enjoying my teh-tarik on the station platform.
Right: Tebrau Shuttle hauled by 29116 Sepetir.

Departure was set at 0830 but I got the timing wrong thinking it was earlier. I managed to savour a cup of teh-tarik while waiting for my train, unaware it was already at the station but hidden from my sight. Tebrau Shuttle's locomotive that day was 29116 Sepetir. We met her before in the quiz.

My trip opened up a whole new way of entering Malaysia - the kind with an unprocessed passport and no white immigration card. You can read about that in my 'Escape to Malaysia' entry. Oh boy, did I mention there was no security check on luggage also?

Link to YouTube video. My train leaving Tanjong Pagar Station with Ekspres Senandung Malam opposite. Due to the single-tracking in Singapore, Tebrau Shuttle has to wait for SM to arrive before she could proceed. Note the long consist of SM, even longer than the station platform!

The train chugged along the track to Woodlands CIQ. She did not stop along the way, rather all the vehicles stopped for her at the railway crossings (yg told me every now and then residents have to put up with this inconvenience). I was like a VIP chauffeured from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands. I'm not sure whether our President or Prime Minister's motorcade need to stop at traffic junctions, but I suppose they are required to pay ERP because of the In-Vehicle Unit.

Link to YouTube video. Evidence of train beating traffic lights between Choa Chu Kang and Stagmont Ring (only because the light is in the train's favour)

The only stop was at Woodlands CIQ (Customs, Immigraton, Quarantine). Passengers were to disembark to have their passport out-processed by our immigration officers. Strangely the outgoing train was checked, for reasons I'm not sure. News of Mas Selamat's capture broke out few days later. Was it Mas Selamat or the latest escape from Whitley Detention Centre, or was it just normal routine to check outgoing trains?

Layout of Woodlands CIQ Complex (my impression). Because the KTM railway is single-tracked in Singapore, the incoming and outgoing trains use the same platform. If you hate queuing (or in a rush to answer nature's call), take the front coach for outgoing train and back coach for incoming train. The exit is more for incoming train passengers who choose to disembark at the CIQ instead of Tanjong Pagar. Bus services are readily available outside. I took that option when I was back and boarded a bus to Woodlands Interchange.

Health Alert Notice
The Health Alert Notice (updated 30 April 2009) in our 4 main languages dished out to incoming passengers (tucked into their passport). At that time, it was called human swine influenza A (H1N1).

At Johor Bahru Station, the train stopped "briefly" before resuming its journey to DCM a stone's throw away. Tebrau Shuttle picked up passengers bound for Kluang and waited for an incoming train to arrive before she could proceed. The train schedule estimated the stop to be around 15 minutes.

Link to YouTube video. An incoming train at Johor Bahru Station. Once again because of single-tracking at the Johor Bahru stretch, she has to arrive before Tebrau Shuttle could proceed. It is all a give-and-take game.

Danga City Mall Halt29116 Sepetir at Danga City Mall
Left: My destination Danga City Mall.
Right: 29116 Sepetir at DCM Halt. She would resume her journey to Kluang.

When I left 29116 Sepetir for the mall, I thought she was lost for good. Little did I know that on my return journey to Singapore she would once again render her service. Good o' rattlesnake!

Link to YouTube video. The return of 29116 Sepetir! Quite a surprise to see her again after a brief three hours separation.

Overall I had a good experience on the Tebrau Shuttle 'joy-ride'. At SGD 3.00, the price was unbeatable. Try to beat that with those in amusement fairs where you have to pay twice - for the entrance fee (around $2) and the ride. You have to join the standing queue for popular rides and the ride is often shorter than the wait. Of course you are still stuck on this little red dot.

Sadly the Tebrau Shuttle 'joy-ride' was my first and last one. Tebrau Shuttle plying Singapore-Kluang was terminated from May 19. The reason, I suspect, due to low demand of travelling or low ridership in non-business speak. From what I heard, the volume was a bit pathetic on weekdays.

Jun 24, 2009

Answers to Quiz (4) - 29116 is Sepetir

Congratulations to Victor and Polestar for recognizing the subject in the quiz. Indeed it has to do with KTM - Keretapi Tanah Melayu - the train service between Malaysia and Singapore. 29116 is a locomotive in their fleet.

Here are the answers to each part.

1. Where can you find this sign?

This is easy if you know it is KTM-related. You may find it along the railway track or at the railway stations (Tanjong Pagar, Bukit Timah). These are all Malaysian Property, by the way.

2. Where did I take the photo?

Victor believed I took the photo while standing on the railway track. This is almost impossible unless you happen to be one of them.

Here is 29116 at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station the day I took the shot. You can see the target is right in front. Assuming I'm Yao Ming (this tall guy can really jump), I could have went below the platform for the shot. This would not be prudent, however, as the driver was in the cab.

2911629116 is Sepetir
Left: 29116 at Tanjong Pagar Station.
Right: Driver in cab, don't play play.

This reminds me of an observation of train commuters in Singapore. Because the Malaysian train service offers no competitive advantage over coach or airline service, most people have no reason to take the train service plying Malaysia and Singapore. Me included, our contact with trains is limited to the MRT/LRT/NEL. If there is a difference between taking our local trains and the Malaysian train, it is this - our transit from platform to passenger compartment is a smooth one. Beware of the platform gap but you never have to climb to get into the passenger compartment. How lucky because generations of train passengers did not experience it that way.

From Indiana Jones in the 1950s ....

to Icemoon in 2009 (from escape to Malaysia episode) ....

The Station MasterThe Driver

(Indiana Jones scenes from movie Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Bottom left and right photos by Icemoon. Note that Icemoon was not caught in the act [of escaping to Malaysia]. Left guy was the station master hunting for Icemoon. Right guy with cap was the cab driver.)

You see, people used to board a train by climbing up, like how you board a bus at road level (well, there is also the WAB - wheelchair accessible bus - which you don't have to climb). This is true for old station platforms. Nowadays stations are built with their platform flushed with the carriage doorway.

Platform LevelKL Sentral
Left: Our old pre-war Tanjong Pagar Station with low platform.
Right: The new KL Sentral Station in Kuala Lumpur with flushed platform.

I'm not sure why older stations were not built to specification unless carriage doorway used to be lower, i.e. flushed with the platform, in the past.

Back to our quiz. As a result, we tend to underestimate the height of a locomotive. Here is a video taken when I was at KL Sentral (Malaysian version of a public transport hub) and shows a locomotive reversing to couple with a coach. Eh, isn't the locomotive our friend 29116? No, she is not. Look carefully. She is 29103, a 'twin'.

Now, do you know from where the quiz photo was taken? Hint: look at the last few scenes of the video. The answer is here.

While you are thinking, let me reveal how the picture was digitally manipulated. I converted the color picture to grayscale, then reversed (negative-imaged) the gray colors.

Digital manipulation - from color to gray negative.

3. What is another name for the subject?

Another name for 29116 is Sepetir. Sepetir and 29103 Merbau in the video belong to the 29 class locomotives of KTMB. Two interesting tidbits about the 29 class.

First, they are double cab locomotives. A cab, in layman understanding, is the 'cockpit' of a train. So the 29 class has two cockpits, at both ends of the locomotive. This is the reason why I could snap the quiz photo from that angle. When the locomotive is coupled, the back cockpit will be facing the first coach of the train. You can see that in the video. The quiz photo was taken behind the door of the gangway. Thus I was inside the train and not on the railway tracks when the photo was taken.

There is actually a prequel to the video if you are interested. This earlier video shows 29103 Merbau reversing slowing ('go-stun') from far. The driver was inside the front cab and at one point, I think the fireman (i.e. their assistant driver) got down and you see him later directing the coupling process. I'm glad I recorded this earlier video because the sight of a lone locomotive without her train consist (i.e. the coaches behind) is just too cute to bear.

The second interesting tidbit is the naming system. Do you know how Sepetir and Merbau got their names? Yes, they are named after timbers found in the region!

Here are the 29 Class locomotives and their timber names:

29101 Cengal
29102 Meranti
29103 Merbau
29104 Jati
29105 Mersawa
29106 Belian
29107 Keranji
29108 Balau
29109 Keruing
29110 Penaga
29111 Seraya
29112 Damar
29113 Nyatoh
29114 Ramin
29115 Kempas
29116 Sepetir
29117 Tembusu
29118 Tualang
29119 Medang
29120 Kledang

Not sure if any of you remembers, yg actually saw a 29 class during one of his 'jalan-jalan' missions. Here is the post. She is 29105 Mersawa.

May 10, 2009

How I 'Sneaked' into Malaysia

The (re)capture of a sleeping Mas Selamat in Skudai incites as many questions as there are applauses. How did he escape from a maximum detention centre and the watchful eyes of our border patrol into neighboring Malaysia?

I do not know how our fugitive sneaked into Malaysia. But I can tell you how I 'sneaked' into Malaysia - with an empty white immigration card and no immigration chop - on May 3, 2009.

I have always wanted to 'test' the Malaysian immigration at its weakest point. For years and perhaps unknown to many, Malaysia and Singapore had their CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) operations in the same building in downtown Singapore. The building, Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, was (and still is) the southern terminus of the Malaysian Railway (KTM, or Keretapi Tanah Melayu). It was a security risk for Singapore as weapons or drugs could be smuggled in from anywhere along the track. A fugitive like Mas Selamat could also hop on a train from anywhere along the track and slip out of Singapore. In 1998, Singapore finally shifted her CIQ to WTCP (Woodlands Train Checkpoint).

Today the sequence of immigration clearance is illogical because Malaysia still has her CIQ at Tanjong Pagar Station. You clear Malaysia immigration at Tanjong Pagar before you clear Singapore immigration at Woodlands, so technically you enter Malaysia before you exit Singapore. For entry into Singapore, the sequence of clearance is per normal - Malaysia has her CIQ at Johore Bahru Railway Station for outgoing trains. There is no immigration clearance for arriving trains at Tanjong Pagar.

Here is what happened on May 3.

Teh Tarik

The 'mission' started with a cup of teh-tarik. I decided sipping teh-tarik was a good way to start the day.

Teh Tarik

Actually the teh-tarik was only a cover. While enjoyable, my real purpose was to survey the area beyond the Malaysian Immigration from the arrival platform.

Where is my train, why has it not arrived?

0815 Gate

I can't wait to escape from Singapore. I finished my teh-tarik hurriedly and went to board the 0815 train at the departure platform.

On the noticeboard, it was written:
I proceeded to immigration without the immigration form.

Malaysia Immigration

There was a queue due to a tour group. I did not find the immigration form so I continued queueing. How would the immigration officer react when I present my passport sans immigration form?

At the counter, the officer did ask me, rather casually, about the form to confirm I did not have it. I shook my head. She returned my passport with the immigration form in it.

Train at different platform

The train was not visible previously because it was parked at another platform. I hopped onto it. My way to freedom.

I alighted at Woodlands Train Checkpoint to clear Singapore immigration. I had already 'cleared' Malaysia immigration at the railway station so the sequence of clearance is illogical.

With the train chugging along the causeway, you know you have found your way to freedom.

Johore Bahru Railway Station

The train will stop at Johore Bahru Station to pick up passengers. You can alight and run off in the direction of Skudai.

My May 3 journey was a novel way to enter Malaysia. For the first time, I tried entering Malaysia without a immigration card and succeeded. According to the Immigration Department of Malaysia,
A visitor is required to complete the Arrival/Departure Card (Imm.26) upon arrival at the gazette entry points .. A visitor must present his/her passport together with the duly completed arrival/departure card to the Immigration officer on duty and he/she must ensure that the passport or travel document is endorsed with the appropriate pass before leaving the immigration counter.
From young, we were reminded to check our passport for the white card (arrival half kept by the immigration officer) and the chop. The visitor is tasked to "ensure the passport .. is endorsed with the appropriate pass". In a sense the Malaysian immmigration is absolved of responsibility so the anecdotal tale goes that when relationship with our neighbour turns sour, their immigration officer may 'sabo' you by not chopping or leaving you the departure half of the card.

After clearing Malaysia immigration at Tanjong Pagar, I took the following picture of my empty immigration form/white card.


The novelty of the situation struck me. I was trying to get used to my 'fugitive' status (there were other distractions as well). The thought of checking for the chop eluded me. In fact the chop escaped my attention until my journey home (eh, do you seriously believe I ran off to Skudai?)

As I wrote before, Malaysia has her CIQ at Johore Bahru Station for outgoing trains. There, their immigration officers will board the train and keep your departure half of the card but they will not chop your passport. In fact they board the train with nothing more than a pen. With the pen, they find the remaining passengers and sign their passport.

The chop returned to haunt me on my return trip. Usually I will slot the white card in the correct page (the one with chop) to facilitate the clearing process. At Johore Bahru Station, I realized I could not find the chop! The discovery almost freaked me out.

My passport in his hand, I could see the immigration officer searching for the chop. He flipped the pages but did not question me. That was a surprise. He then wrote something on my passport.

This was what he wrote:

No Immigration Chop

I heaved a sigh of relief. I was cleared to leave Malaysia.

From our perspective, CIQ operations at Tanjong Pagar Station can only be described as lacking. There was no H1N1 temperature check, not to mention any X-ray check on luggage for prohibited items. The white card was not readily available. They did not chop my passport. I'm not sure whether they scanned my passport for that would be the only record of me entering Malaysia.