Blue Coaches Boost KTMB's East Coast Sector
By Hazlinda Hamzah
WAKAF BAHARU, Dec 1 (Bernama) -- Fourteen blue train coaches that have ferried passengers from Tokyo to its western suburbs on Kyushu Island are now in Malaysia.
After 30 years of faithfully serving Japanese railway commuters, the blue coaches (or "burutrain," as they were called by Japanese railroad users) have found their new home in Malaysia.
In a gesture of good will, the Japanese government has distributed its train coaches to Asean countries; Thailand received 126 of them. More than 70 electric train coaches were handed over to Indonesia.
"The coaches are a gift from Japan," said Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) president Dr Aminuddin Adnan. KTMB paid for sea cargo transportation costs and adjustments made to the coaches' undercarriage in order to make them suitable for railway tracks in the country."
The train coaches, now named Harimau Malaya (Malayan Tigers) were unveiled at the Wakaf Baharu railway station here recently.
Dr Aminuddin said that KTMB spent "close to RM6.5 million" to make the 14 coaches available in the country.
"The investment is expected to be recouped within five years, and we are confident that the coaches can continue operating for at least another 10 years.
"These coaches are expected to boost the railway services in the east Coast sector from Tumpat to Singapore. These blue coaches will officially come into service in early 2012," he said.
According to Dr Aminuddin, KTMB applied for the blue coaches from the Japanese government through the Transport Ministry, as the coaches are deemed ideal for its InterCity services.
He said the KTMB expects more than 185,000 passengers to use the train each year.
"These coaches arrived at Westport in port Klang in December 2010.
"The Harimau Malaya train is tipped to boost the domestic tourism scene, particularly for tourists who came from Singapore and Indonesia," explained Dr Aminuddin.
A group of reporters took a test ride on board the train from Wakaf Baharu to Johor Baharu.
At the function, the Japanese government was represented by the First Secretary in charge of Transport and Tourism at the Japanese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Dr Hiroki Yajima and other officials.
The blue coaches have been well-serviced according to a strict schedule.
"The interiors and furnishings are serviced according to a strict schedule," a KTMB manager, Mohd Azami Mohd Zain, said. "Despite being relatively old, the coaches appear to be brand new.
"The coaches are regularly cleaned and all the furnishings and fabrics have been changed. This was actually not necessary as the Japanese are very disciplined, as they wanted to ensure that the coaches could be used for a long time without additional costs," he said while on the ride to Johor Baharu.
The second-class seats on this Harimau Malaya train have no audio-visual Gadgets, such as television or DVD player as the environment in the coaches for the past 30 years was different.
Japanese passengers preferred reading while on board the train, and they did not like the loud noises that came from these gadgets, disturbing their peace while on long journeys.
TRIP FROM WAKAF BAHARU
The trip from Wakaf Baharu to Johor Baharu takes some 16 hours.
Sleeping berths are smaller on the blue coaches, and the mattress is thinner compared to the other KTMB coaches.
However, there is a collapsible ladder to scale up to the bunk above. This is more practical in terms of saving space, and provides more room for adjacent sleeping berths.
All other facilities -- toilets, sinks and smoking rooms -- are in still good condition in these coaches. Walls are clean and free of any graffiti.
It is hoped that the Harimau Malaya train will boost tourism along the KTMB's east coast sector, and will be packaged with other tourism products in the country.
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