By A. Jeyaraj
When I interviewed regular travellers of the ETS shuttle service between Ipoh and KL for the cover story “Gateway to Ipoh”, Issue 217 (August 1-15, 2015), most of the respondents had positive things to say about the service. Subsequently, the people who praised the service have called me to complain of the deterioration of the service especially after introduction of the new ETS to Padang Besar.
1) New Timetable from September 1 from Ipoh to KL
The old timetable had eight trips daily from Ipoh to KL and vice versa and ten trips on weekends. In the initial new schedule, the first train is at 5.30am and next train is at 12.30pm. There were complaints from the public for not having a mid morning train and due to complaints, a morning service has been introduced at 8.30am. The old schedule had two trips in the morning and it has now been reduced to one. The new timetable has only seven trips daily. The KL Padang Besar ETS service is considered as the eighth trip. There are no more additional services during weekends, the peak period.
2) The train is often late
Although they try to reach the last destination on time, they will still be late for 15 minutes to half an hour. Lately the trains are always late for at least 25 minutes.
3) System down
It is difficult to purchase tickets online since the system is down very often. This causes long queues at the stations as their computers are also facing the same problem. Recently, the system has been down for a month. No one can tell us when it will be up.
4) System problem
Many people have faced the problem of purchasing tickets online with their debit cards/credit cards/direct transfer and the transaction goes missing. KTM cannot detect the transaction and considers it as unsold. It is only when the person shows proof of payment charged on his statement that KTM will refund the money. This takes a few working days. Susan Ho, a blogger is a frequent traveller and said that she had emailed and called a number of times just to get her money back. She eventually gave up after a month of not getting any response. It took 10 days for a refund.
5) Frequent Traveller Card
There used to be a Tiger and a student card. Frequent travellers had to pay RM20 a year to maintain it and enjoy rebates. KTM has recently stopped Tiger cards and only students have this offer.
6) Facilities on the train
Facilities on the train were said to be perfect and sockets could be used and WiFi was available. A number of sockets are not working well and there is now no WiFi.
The movies played are supposed to be changed weekly. However, the same Christmas movie was playing for two months. There is no sound and this is understandable since you do not want to disturb people who want to rest, but you could put it at a lower volume. When the station nears, the message “Stesen berikutnya, Slim River” is displayed and it covers the subtitles. Passengers want to watch and read the subtitles. The static in certain areas causes TV and air-cons to shut down for about 1 minute or so most of the time throughout the trip.
8) Unnecessary charges
Susan said that she recently found out that KTM has started to charge customers who purchase tickets online. KTM should encourage the public to purchase tickets online and reduce the queue at the station. She is not sure whether she is being charged RM2 or RM4 and also not know what the charges are for.
9) Commuter train substituted for electric train
My sisters were taking the 3.46pm train from Rawang to Ipoh on August 11 and waited at designated Platform 2 and when the train did not arrive they called the hotline and were told that the train was delayed and was at Sungai Buloh. When the train still did not arrive, all the passengers went to see the stationmaster and he informed them that according to the screen on his desk, the train had left. He said that there was an announcement, but the passengers never heard it. In fact a commuter train was used for the service and it passed through Platform 3. The stationmaster informed that ETS is operated from KL and he has no control. They took the next train, luckily seats were available.
The Commuter train has no toilets and the seats are not designed for long distance travel. According to staff at the KTM call centre, commuter trains will be used if an ETS train is not available.
10) Information counter
The staff at the information counter are not helpful. They are not informed on what is going on. When I called the KTM call centre, they were not able to provide any information. You can call their call centre at 1-300-88-5862.