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Rail transport in Malaysia

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Rail transport in Malaysia

Rail transport in Malaysia
KL Monorail in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
National railway Keretapi Tanah Melayu
Major operators Sabah State Railway, Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd, RapidKL
Ridership ?
System length
Total 1,833 kilometres (1,139 mi)
Double track 438 km (272 mi)
Electrified 438 km (272 mi)
High-speed 57 km (35 mi)
Track gauge
Main 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)

Rail transport in Malaysia comprises heavy rail (including high-speed rail), light rail transit (LRT), monorail and a funicular railway line. Heavy rail is mostly used for intercity passenger and freight transport as well as some urban public transport, while LRTs are used for urban public transport and some special use such as transporting passengers between airport buildings. There is one high-speed railway line with two high-speed train services linking Kuala Lumpur with the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The sole monorail line in the country is also used for public transport in Kuala Lumpur while the only funicular railway line is in Penang.

The railway network covers most states in Peninsular Malaysia. In East Malaysia, only the state of Sabah has railways. Singapore, although not part of Malaysia, is served by the Malaysian railway network. The network is also connected to the Thai railway 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) network in the north. If the Burma Railway is rebuilt, services to Myanmar, India and China could be initiated.

Railway infrastructure

Metre gauge rail

Peninsular Malaysia

The intercity railway network in Peninsular Malaysia consists of two main lines: The West Coast Line between Singapore and Padang Besar, Perlis, on the Malaysian-Thai border, and the East Coast Line between Gemas in Negeri Sembilan and Tumpat in Kelantan. There are also several branch lines – between Kuala Lumpur and Port Klang, Batu Junction and Batu Caves, Bukit Mertajam and Butterworth, Tapah Road and Teluk Intan, Kempas and Tanjung Pelepas, Kempas and Pasir Gudang, and between Pasir Mas and Rantau Panjang. The entire 1,699 km network uses 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge tracks.

The network is linked with the Thai railway network at Padang Besar and Rantau Panjang.

A total of 438 km of the network is double track and electrified. They include portions of the West Coast Line between Gemas and Ipoh and the entire Kuala Lumpur-Port Klang branch line as well as the stretch between Kuala Lumpur and Sentul – Batu Caves branch line. The double-track and electrified portions between Kuala Kubu Bharu and Seremban and the Port Klang to Kuala Lumpur branch lines are used as the commuter train services.

Double tracking and electrification of the stretch of the Batu Caves branch line between Sentul and Batu Caves are now complete, it added 7.5 km of double track and electrified sections to the network. Double tracking of the West Coast line between Ipoh and Padang Besar has started in January 2008 and expected to be completed by November 2014[1] and will add a further 329 km of double track to the network.

Malaysia's national petroleum company Petronas owns a railway line which links its oil refinery complex and the nearby town of Kerteh, Terengganu, with the petrochemical complex in Gebeng, Kuantan and Kuantan Port near Kuantan, Pahang. The line is mainly used to transport petroleum products, but has recently been opened up for general freight transport, with operation being conducted by KTM. There have been proposals to extend the line to connect with the KTM line at Mentakab, and even suggestions to go as far as Kuala Terengganu and Tumpat.


There is a 134 km (83 mi) railway line linking Tanjung Aru near Kota Kinabalu and Tenom in the interior of Sabah state. The line is the only railway on the island of Borneo. Besides normal passenger trains operated by the Sabah State Railway Department, the tracks are also used to for the North Borneo Railway tourist train. The line has been suffering from lack of maintenance for many years and in 2006, the Malaysian Government funded rehabilitation works for the line. A pipe dream is to have a railway line from Kota Kinabalu to Kuching through Brunei though the cost of this would mean seeking funding from Brunei.

Standard gauge rail line

Airport express

One of two Malaysia's fastest rail line is the 57 km (35 mi) standard gauge line between Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Depending on whose definition is used, this line may not be define as fastest because the maximum speed used is 160 km/h (99 mph). The line was constructed by Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd, which also operates the two train services which use the line, namely the KLIA Ekspres and KLIA Transit. Ideas have been mooted to extend this line as far south as Johor Bahru and as far north as Penang using a high-speed rail infrastructure travelling at 300 km/h (186 mph). However, this proposed line hasn't yet even begun construction.

Extension of the track is under construction, from KLIA to new budget terminal KLIA2. It is expected to complete in first quarter of 2013. The extension line is 2.2 km.

Light Rail Transit

LRT rolling stock in Kuala Lumpur
There are three systems which are called light rail transits in Malaysia. Two are used in Kuala Lumpur to ferry paying passengers while the third is used at Kuala Lumpur International Airport to ferry passengers from the Main Terminal Building and the satellite building.

The two lines in Kuala Lumpur are the Kelana Jaya Line and the Ampang Line. The Kelana Jaya Line is a driver-less automatic system and is 29 km (18 mi) long, running between the northeastern suburbs of Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya to the west of Kuala Lumpur. It is mostly elevated except for a 4 km (2.5 mi) stretch where it goes underground and there is a short at-grade stretch. The Kelana Jaya Line was completely operational from June 1999. The older Ampang Line is 27 km (17 mi) and consists of two lines, running between the suburb of Sentul in the north of Kuala Lumpur, and Ampang in the east, as well as Sri Petaling in the south. Trains branch off to either Ampang or Sri Petaling at Chan Sow Lin station about midway of both lines. The system is mostly at-grade outside the city, and elevated with it runs through the city. Unlike the trains on the Kelana Jaya Line, those on the Ampang Line have drivers. The line was completely opened on 1998.

The light rail system at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, called the "Aerotrain", is a simple people-mover shuttle system running along two 1,286 m (4,219 ft) guiderails between the Main Terminal Building and Satellite Building. The two ends of the guiderails are elevated while the middle portion goes under the main airport taxiway. Each rail has a three-car automatic driver-less train.


KL Monorail, Operated by RapidKL
Malaysia's only monorail system is used for public transport in Kuala Lumpur. It is 8.6 km (5.3 mi) long, running from Titiwangsa in the north of central Kuala Lumpur, to KL Sentral just to the south of the city centre. It has 11 stations. The line consists of two parallel rails for most of the way except at the end stations where switches merge the two rails into a single rail before entering the station. The entire network is elevated. The system uses two-car trains which were manufactured in Malaysia. It is operated by KL Monorail Sdn Bhd.

There are proposals to construct monorails in Penang, Johor Bahru and Malacca but opposition has been vociferously expressed by Penang and Malacca residents concerned about the system being out of place in the historic downtown areas. Malacca has since focused on the less intrusive Aerorail. The federal administrative centre of Putrajaya was also supposed to have a monorail network and the main station and several metres of track have been built. However, the project has been postponed because of costs and the Malaysian government felt that it was not a priority project for the time being even though good public transportation would attract many Malaysians to re-locate to this new underpopulated city.

Malacca is currently constructing a 1.8 km (1.1 mi) Aerorail line for urban mass-transit. For more information see Malacca Monorail.

The monorail has been hit by a number of setbacks, including the suspension of the service after a British couple, Anne and James Croft, had to be rescued by firefighters when the monorail stopped unexpectedly between stations. This has been exacerbated by the imported Chinese trains not having any manuals available in either Bahasa Malaysia or English. Following this incident a number of safety upgrades have been suggested including the purchase of cherry pickers in case of any further stoppages.[2]


Penang Hill funicular Rail
The Penang Hill Railway in Penang is the only funicular railway system in Malaysia. Although overwhelmingly used to ferry tourists up Penang Hill, the train is also used by residents living in the hill. The line is made up of two separate sections, with the total length at 1.2 km (0.75 mi). Both sections are single lines with passing loops at midway. The tracks are metre gauge and have an incline of over 50%. It is the only funicular railway in East Asia other than the Peak Tram in Hong Kong. There have been ideas mooted to build more funiculars on other major hills in Malaysia as part of improving infrastructure to boost tourism, but there are profitability concerns and worries that this might damage the environment even though new roads are the worst culprits.


Many oil palm plantations operate small, narrow-gauge, light railways to transport oil palm fruits to mills. One such example is in United Plantations in Jenderata, Perak.

Rail-based public transport in Kuala Lumpur

Network map of the Kuala Lumpur Rail Transit

Light Rail Transit (LRT)

Kelana Jaya Line (Pink line)
Between Gombak and Kelana Jaya
23 stations over 29 km, operated by RapidKL Rail
Ampang Line (Yellow line)
Between Sentul Timur and Sri Petaling
18 stations over 15 km, operated by RapidKL Rail

Between Sentul Timur and Ampang
18 stations over 15 km, operated by RapidKL Rail

Commuter Services

Batu Caves-Port Klang Route (Red line)
Between Batu Caves and Port Klang
23 stations over 45 km, operated by KTM Komuter
Rawang-Sungai Gadut Route (Blue line)
Between Rawang and Sungai Gadut
27 stations over 153 km, operated by KTM Komuter
Rawang-Tanjung Malim Route (Blue line)
Between Rawang and Tanjung Malim (Shuttle service)
6 stations over 22 km, operated by KTM Komuter

Monorail Service

KL Monorail (Green line)
Between KL Sentral and Titiwangsa
11 stations over 8.6 km, operated by KL Monorail

Airport Services

KLIA Ekspres (Purple line)
From KL Sentral to KLIA
Non-stop over 75 km, operated by ERL
KLIA Transit (Purple line)
Between KL Sentral and KLIA
5 stations over 75 km, operated by ERL

Railway operators

Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad

The main intercity passenger train operator is Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB), a corporation owned by the Malaysian government. It operates KTM Intercity passenger trains on both main lines and the Bukit Mertajam-Butterworth branch. The other branch lines are either used for freight or not used at all, with the exception of the Kuala Lumpur-Port Klang and Batu Junction-Sentul stretch of the Batu Caves branch lines which are used for its commuter train service, KTM Komuter. The commuter service also uses the double-track and electrified portions of the West Coast Line between Rawang and Seremban. KTMB is also the main operator of freight trains in Malaysia.

Besides its own network, KTMB also operates trains on the Kerteh-Kuantan railway under contract with Petronas, the owner of the line.

Sabah State Railway

The Sabah State Railway, previously the North Borneo Railway, is the only state department in Malaysia to operate a railway service. It operates passenger and freight services along the 134 km railway line between Tanjung Aru and Tenom in East Malaysia.

Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd

KLIA Transit

The private company was set up to develop and operate the high-speed railway between Kuala Lumpur's KL Sentral station and Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It operates two services along the 57 km standard gauge line, the non-stop KLIA Ekspres and the commuter-like KLIA Transit. Trains on the two services can reach a maximum speed of 160 km/h and are the fastest in Malaysia. Besides trains, the company also provides check-in facilities at its Kuala Lumpur City Airport Terminal at KL Sentral. Except for check-in baggage of passengers, Express Rail Link does not handle any cargo.


RapidKL, or Rangkaian Pengangkutan Integrasi Deras Sdn Bhd, was set up by the government to operate public transport in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of the country as and when the need arises. It is fully owned by the Finance Ministry Incorporated. The company currently operates the two LRT lines in Kuala Lumpur, namely the Ampang Line and the Kelana Jaya Line, the KL Monorail Line and also operates some 70% of bus services in Kuala Lumpur.

Other operators


Railways in Malaysia began because of the need to transport tin from mines in the hinterland of the West Coast states of Peninsular Malaysia to coastal ports. The first railway line, which was opened on 1 June 1885, was about 13 km long and ran between Port Weld and Taiping, the heart of the tin-rich Larut Valley in Perak state.[3] The second line was opened a year later to link Kuala Lumpur, again the center of tin-mining activities in the Klang Valley, and Klang and subsequently to Port Swettenham (Port Klang today).

Important dates

Projects and expansion plans

Rawang-Padang Besar double tracking and electrification project

The double-tracking and electrification of 179 km of the main West Coast line enables KTMB to run trains at a maximum speed of 160 km/h from Seremban via KL Sentral to Ipoh. KTMB has introduced a rapid intercity service between Seremban railway station via KL Sentral to Ipoh railway station running 16 services daily with their new KTM Class 91. This project, which has been beset by problems and delays, is completed by beginning of 2010 and it cut down the journey time of KL-Ipoh to 2.5 hours. This project also enabled KTMB to extend its KTM Komuter service from Rawang railway station to Rasa Komuter station in 2007, and later extended to Tanjung Malim railway station in 2009. The cost of the project originally was RM4.6 billion. The project started in 2000 but has been beset by numerous problems and as of June 2007, it was completed by the beginning of 2010 and operations for the ETS Line started on 12 August 2010. The ETS Line is currently being extended even further to Padang Besar railway station, which is completed in 2015. Along this extension will be the longest railway tunnel in South-East Asia, the Berapit Tunnel.

For more details, see Keretapi Tanah Melayu page.

Seremban-Gemas double-tracking and electrification project

On 7 January 2008, the government of Malaysia announced that the Indian company, IRCON International won the USD1 billion (MYR 3.45 billion) contract to build a double track from Seremban railway station to Gemas railway station. The 100 km SerembanSungai Gadut double tracking project was completed in 2010 and to Gemas railway station by 2013. The track involves 64.85 km stretch in Negeri Sembilan, 27.84 km in Melaka and 1.45 km in Johor. A 1.8 km tunnel and 9 bridges will be built in the process.

On 23 May 2008, a joint venture between IJM and Norwest won a MYR490.12 million contract from IRCON to construct, commission and maintain infrastructure works for the electrified double-track project. The construction period is 21 months.[4]

On 27 May 2008, a joint venture between Loh & Loh and Pasti Abadi Sdn Bhd won a MYR 273.01 million contract to construct, commission and maintain infrastructure works. The contract include site clearance, demolition and relocation works.

On 26 January 2010, Chief Minister of the state of Malacca, Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the work on the dual-track railway was 32.81% completed and it was expected to be operational by 2013. Once completed, the travel time between Malacca and Negri Sembilan will be shortened and new six-coach trains capable of carrying 350 passengers at 140 km per hour will be used.

Part of the project, from Seremban railway station to Sungai Gadut Komuter station was completed in April 2011, and from Sungai Gadut Komuter station to Gemas railway station has been completed on 31 July 2013. The line is energised in stages starting from Sungai Gadut – Rembau stretch in April 2013, Rembau – Batang Melaka in early July 2013 and finally Batang Melaka – Gemas section in late July 2013. The line was completed on 30 October 2013.

Kuala Lumpur light rail transit expansion

On 29 August 2006, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Mohd Najib Abdul Razak announced a RM10 billion plan to expand Kuala Lumpur's public transport network. The plan included extending the existing Kelana Jaya Line from Kelana Jaya to Putra Heights and the Ampang Line from Sri Petaling LRT station to Putra Heights via Puchong. The plan also will see a new light rail transit line being constructed between Kota Damansara to the northwest of Kuala Lumpur and Cheras which lies to the southeast of Kuala Lumpur. Details are available at

Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad, the owner of most public transport assets in Kuala Lumpur, signed an agreement on 13 October 2006 with Bombardier and a Malaysian company joint venture for the purchase of 22 light rail vehicle sets with an option for another 13 for RM1.2 billion for the Kelana Jaya Line. The 22 vehicles will have four cars each and will boost the carrying capacity of the fleet by 1,500 people. The 22 sets will be delivered from August 2008. The system currently operates 35 two-cars train set. On 27 July 2009, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announced that the 35 new four-car trains will be operational by end-2010. The Ampang Line now operates using 6 car trains.

The entire project is expected to be completed by 2014.

Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed railway

Just after the completion of the KLIA Ekspres, the project proponent YTL Corporation Berhad proposed a high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. At that time, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia could not afford such an expensive project. YTL again proposed the project in 2006[5] and as of June 2007, the Malaysian Government said the feasibility of the proposal was still being studied.[6] The RM8 billion project would slash rail travel time from more than 6 hours to about 90 minutes. The main stumbling blocks, apart from costs, appears to be the JB-Woodlands Causeway which Mahathir had once hoped to replace with a 'scenic bridge'. There were doubts about the capacity of such a curved bridge to carry a rail line and YTL having to use KTM land which runs from Woodlands to Keppel. Redevelopment of this land in Singapore could probably help fund the proposed railway if the various parties involved each had a stake in each other. If the Causeway remains or a straight bridge is one day built to replace it, there should be no difficulty to have a high speed line on either. The high speed line proposal, like the bridge proposal, appears to have reached a stumbling block which only can be overcome at the highest political levels where other bilateral issues have to first be resolved or dealt with at the same time.

As of December 2007, YTL Corporation Group managing director, Tan Sri Francis Yeoh Sock Ping, express great confidence that the project will be approved by both governments. Iskandar Development Region.[7][8] On January 2008, the transport minister, Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said that the government is still looking in the proposal and had yet to make a final decision. He added that the train would be Broad gauge and will run at 350 km/h.[9] If this is the case, new lines need to be laid down as the currently ERL tracks are only Standard gauge. In March 2008, the government is still studying the social impact of the project through the Economic Planning Unit. The Deputy Prime Minister stress out that the risk and funding of the project will squarely rest on the private sector.[10]

Siemens, a major railroad partner in Malaysia has express interest in giving out solutions to the project. They have proposed Velaro trains which has a top speed of 350 km/h as a solution for the project.[11]

On 22 April 2008, the government announce that the project was put on hold indefinitely due to high cost. The government said that the model that YTL corp. was proposing requires the government to borne a significant amount of financing.[12] According to news reports, the decision came at the time of political upheaval due to the recent general election, supported by voices like Keretapi Tanah Melayu who opposes such projects and consideration to protect Kuala Lumpur International Airport.[13]

On March 2009, it was reported the YTL was considering to revive the project again. It will seek to build the rail line on the coastline of Peninsular Malaysia rather than an earlier proposal of building on the existing track.[14]

Sarawak Railway Line

As part of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy project, the government is planning a 320 km railway track between Similajau in Bintulu Division and Tanjung Manis in Mukah Division. The cost nor the project time line is yet to be revealed.[15]

Gemas – Johor Bahru Double Tracking and Electrification

The MYR 8 billion contract is expected to be tendered out by end 2008 pending a mid-term review of Ninth Malaysia Plan. The project includes building over 200 km of parallel railway tracks, including stations, depots, halts, yards and bridges and cover systems such as electrification, signalling and communications.[16] This include realignment between Pulau Sebang, Melaka to Gemas section.

On May 2009, Global Rail Sdn Bhd, a relatively small contractor and its Chinese partner, China Infraglobe submitted a proposal to the Government to build and upgrade tracks from Gemas to Johor Baharu at a cost of MYR 5 billion. According to them, the project will be on a Private Finance Initiative basis and the plan submitted to the Finance Ministry later in June 2009 was conditional upon signing over mineral rights in Johor State.[17]

On 29 January 2011, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha said that The Gemas-Johor Bharu double-tracking and electrification project is expected to start this year. He added that the Government hoped to appoint the contractor for the project this year and Malaysia is still in the midst of talking with China Railway Construction, but nothing is confirmed yet. Kong said two consultants had been appointed, a design consultant and an independent checker, to monitor the project. The construction of the 197 km of tracks, at an estimated cost between MYR 6 billion and MYR 7 billion, would take three years.[18]

Construction can only start in February 2014.

Klang Valley MRT

The Klang Valley MRT is a Gamuda Berhad-MMC Corporation Berhad proposed three-line 150 km Mass Rapid Transit system for the Klang Valley which envisages a "Wheel and Spoke" concept comprising two northeast-southwest radial lines and one circle line looping around Kuala Lumpur city. The proposal was announced in early-June 2010 and construction works targeted to commence in early-2011, leading to project completion in 2016.

The Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit system will be the backbone of a new transport system in Klang Valley, which will be home to an estimated 10 million people by 2020. The Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit system will have several lines integrated with the light rail transit (LRT), Monorail, KTMB Komuter and intra- and inter-city bus services to form an effective public transportation system.

In December 2010, the Government announced that the Sungai Buloh – Kajang Line will be the first to take off. The Sungai Buloh – Kajang Line will run from Sungai Buloh to Kajang through Kuala Lumpur city centre. This route which runs from north-west to south-east of Kuala Lumpur is densely populated and is currently inadequately served by rail-based public transport. Upon expected completion by 2016, the Sungai Buloh – Kajang line will provide train service to 1.2 million people with an estimated daily ridership of 442,000.

Construction of the line was officially launched on 8 July 2011 by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Phase One of the line, from Sungai Buloh to Semantan station will be operational by 31 December 2016 while the remainder of the line will be operational by 31 July 2017. As of 31 July 2013, construction of the line was 24% complete.[19]

Besides the Sungai Buloh – Kajang Line, the other two lines which were proposed will be built based on the Land Public Transport Masterplan and Urban Rail Development Plan being drawn by the Land Public Transport Commission.

The Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit system including all the stations will be owned by the Government of Malaysia through Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp), a special purpose vehicle which is 100% owned by the Ministry of Finance Incorporated. RapidKL, which is the current operator of the Klang Valley's light rail transit, monorail and a majority of its bus routes, will operate the future mass rapid transit system under an integrated fare system.

The newly established Land Public Transport Commission or Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (SPAD) is the supervising agency of the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit Project.

See also


  1. ^ "Electrified Double Track Project (EDTP), Ipoh – Padang Besar". Gamuda. 
  2. ^ The Star. "SPAD suspends Malacca monorail service for a month". The Star Newspaper. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Pembukaan jalan kereptapi Taiping-Port Weld (Opening of the Taiping-Port Weld railway)". 1 June 1980. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  4. ^ "IJM-Norwest clinches RM490mil rail contract". The Star. 24 May 2008. Retrieved 24 May 2008. 
  5. ^ Moses, Rajan (5 July 2006). "Bullet to Singapore: From KL in 90 minutes".  
  6. ^ "No decision yet on express rail link to S'pore".  
  7. ^ YTL confident of getting KL-Spore bullet train project
  8. ^ YTL Corp sure of govt nod for KL-S’pore bullet train project
  9. ^ Restored coaches for railway line
  10. ^ "Private sector must bear bullet train risk: Najib". Business Times. Retrieved 15 April 2008. 
  11. ^ Siemens banks on niche in energy-efficiency train
  12. ^ "High cost derails KL-S'pore bullet train project". Business Times. Archived from the original on 27 May 2008. Retrieved 23 April 2008. 
  13. ^ Gan Yen Kuan. "YTL bullet train proposal shelved". The Edge. Archived from the original on 30 April 2008. Retrieved 22 April 2008. 
  14. ^ "Malaysia's YTL to revive bullet train project". Yahoo News and Reuters. 14 March 2009. Retrieved 15 March 2009. 
  15. ^ "Sarawak's first railway to be built in Score, says Taib". New Straits Times. 8 July 2008. Archived from the original on 9 July 2008. Retrieved 8 July 2008. 
  16. ^ Sharen Kaur (16 June 2008). "Tenders may be called". Business Times. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2008. 
  17. ^ Sharen Kaur (12 May 2009). "RM5b rail project on drawing board". Business Times. 
  18. ^ "JB-Gemas railway project expected to begin this year". The Star. 29 January 2011. 
  19. ^ Sharen Kaur (27 August 2013). "MRT: Final 16 packages for project by mid-2014". Business Times. 
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