The ETS service from Butterworth to KL Sentral connects two of Peninsular Malaysia’s most important urban regions. Running 6 times a day to to KL Sentral, it is one of the most popular intercity train services in Malaysia for both locals and tourists.
Taking the ETS from Butterworth gives a slightly different experience than taking the train from KL Sentral, but is otherwise pretty similar.
Booking my ticket
I booked my ticket for this journey on the KITS online ticketing portal. KITS is KTMB’s latest effort at a smoother ticketing experience, and it gets the job done well enough. There is also a KITS app available on Google Play and the Apple App Store, where signing into your KITS account will load tickets for your past and upcoming journeys.
This is very helpful as you no longer have to fumble with an A4 printout of your ticket at the ticket gates. Instead, you can now fumble with your phone as you scan the QR codes.
As I booked the tickets as part of a return Standard Class ticket, I was charged RM 160.00 per person with a seat reservation included. If you’d like to have a go at the Business Class on this route, you can do so by selecting a Business Class seat. Doing so automatically tops up the cost of your tickets.
As far as I’m aware, KTMB does not offer any way of upgrading to Business Class with an existing Standard Class ticket.
Departure experience at Butterworth
Butterworth is the terminus station for the Butterworth – Gemas mainline, and the primary rail gateway to Penang Island.
Despite its importance, the station itself is small, cramped, and prone to bottleneck induced human congestion in its public areas. This is largely due to a small concourse that not only hosts the ticket counters, but also the passenger waiting area. As passengers are not allowed to wait on the platform, this means the concourse gets extremely crowded especially when 2 services are departing or arriving at the same time.
Butterworth has 2 island platforms (numbered Platforms 1 – 4) which are connected to the concourse via a single set of stairs and elevators each. The station has no escalators, so queuing in front of the elevators are your best bet if you have luggage with you.
KTMB’s services generally depart on time, and this was no exception. So it goes without saying that you should not be late for your train.
Cabin & Onboard Amenities
The Standard Class seats
This service was operated by one of KTMB’s Class 93/2 trainsets, the second generation of the Class 93 series operating since 2016. All Class 93/2 sets are fitted out in a two-class configuration, with Coach A reserved for Business Class.
The Standard Class seats on these newer trains are a big improvement from the ones on the first generation Class 93/1 sets. These seats are well padded, can be reclined, and have very good legroom. Footrests are also available at the base of the seat.
I was impressed by the leap in quality onboard these trains. Their predecessors featured seats that weren’t as comfortable, and the fixtures onboard also rattled frequently. In contrast, the seats on these newer Class 93/2 sets have a more solid build quality, and I didn’t hear any rattling throughout my journey.
Onboard Amenities – The Toilets
The Class 93/2 sets are fitted with regular sized toilets, and an accessible toilet in Coach D.
Each toilets are fitted with a western-style toilet bowl, a sink with running water, and hand soap. No hand dryers are installed, but there is usually a supply of hand towels.
The accessible toilet is similar to those on European intercity trains. It is larger and features an electrically operated sliding door. Opening and closing the door is done by pressing a button, but locking the door has to be done manually.
Unfortunately, KTMB has created a small recipe for disaster, as there is no attention-grabbing prompt to remind users to lock the door.
The toilets are well ventilated as the small hopper window is usually left open for that purpose. The trade-off is that it can get very loud in the toilet. So while you have to deal with your ears ringing for some time after, you can still rest easy that your nostrils weren’t assaulted that day.
All ETS trains feature a small bistro counter onboard. On the Class 93/2 sets, the counter is in Coach C.
A limited selection of pre-packed meals and drinks are sold onboard. Note that while a rather ambitious and extensive menu is pasted on and above the bistro counter, the available meals are limited only to those displayed on the countertop. Drinks, on the other hand, are made from instant powder packs, while small bottles of water are also available for sale.
I decided to try the “Nasi Dagang Terengganu” which, as the label says, is “Rice Steamed in Coconut Milk with Fish Curry”.
I’m glad I didn’t have high hopes in the first place, as the meal was quite disappointing. The “Fish Curry” turned out to be a tiny sauce-pack sized portion with a tiny chunk of fish. More importantly, there was no acar – the pickled vegetables that Nasi Dagang is usually served with.
I’m also not entirely sure if a fish curry dish is suitable to be served onboard ETS trains. As the trainsets do not have dedicated restaurant cars, passengers have to either sit at the two tiny tables and bar stools opposite the bistro counter, or to bring their food back to their seat. The relatively small size of the seatback tables also arguably increase the risk of spillage, which can be a nightmare for the cleaners when a curry dish is involved due to the fabric seats.
I’ve previously commented that KTMB needs to work on its onboard catering. While I can applaud the attempt to provide some variety to its onboard food offering, perhaps its also time to create a dedicated onboard space for dining, even if its just for microwaved pre-packed meals.
Arrival at KL Sentral
Our arrival into the Kuala Lumpur area was marked by a sudden rain shower (the onboard temperature really dipped as a result), and the long pause outside Rawang as the train waited for clearance to enter the single tracked area leading into KL Sentral.
KTMB’s schedules are usually padded to account for minor delays along the line, which meant we pulled into KL Sentral on time.
KTMB offers a good product onboard its ETS services. I’ve consistently found my trips on ETS services to be reliable and enjoyable. But as always, KTMB seems to struggle with some of the finer details even after 12 – 13 years of running ETS services.
Now with the electrification of the southern mainline to Johor Bahru nearing completion, perhaps its time for KTMB to up the design standards and attention to detail for their incoming new ETS train sets.