KL city centre to Sepang airport in just 28 minutes
The new $1.16 billion express train system will start running in April, carrying up to 10,000 passengers a day
By Reme Ahmad
IN KUALA LUMPUR
YOU are in Kuala Lumpur and need to get to the Sepang airport fast to catch a flight.
The new airport express train leaves a station near Kuala Lumpur during a test run. -- REUTERS
But it is rush hour and the road is clogged with slow-moving traffic.
Enter the promise of the Express Rail Link (ERL) - moving travellers from the central rail station, KL Sentral, to the airport within half an hour.
Just hop onto the various city railway systems that are linked to KL Sentral, check in your luggage at the KL City Air Terminal at the central station and collect your boarding pass for the flight.
You can then catch the ERL train that will race to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in 28 minutes.
The RM2.4 billion (S$1.16 billion) rail system linking the city to KLIA will start commercial operations in five months, on 19 April.
Travelling at 160 kmh - the fastest speed for public transport in the country - the air-conditioned coaches will seat 156 people.
A one-way fare for the 57 km journey will be RM35, less than half the price of a taxi.
KLIA is located about 70 km from the city and travelling by car takes nearly an hour under normal traffic conditions.
'The ride was so smooth. When we were running at 160 kmh, I see that we were faster than the cars on the road,' declared Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ling Liong Sik after taking a trial ride on the train last week.
Cars can travel at a maximum legal speed of 110 kmh on highways.
The KLIA Ekspres train will operate at 15-minute intervals between 5 am and 1 am daily.
'The KLIA Ekspres is expected to be popular with businessmen and executives as their journey to KLIA is now made predictable and stress-free, free of traffic jams and the stress of driving,' said the project's developer, Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd.
The firm is 60 per cent owned by a unit of the pilgrimage board, Lembaga Tabung Haji, and 40 per cent by construction-property conglomerate YTL Corp.
The service will carry between 5,000 to 10,000 passengers a day. The Sepang airport is expected to handle 16.2 million travellers next year.
But the ride has not been smooth for the project.
Construction of the rail link and the KL Sentral transport hub itself was slowed by the Asian economic crisis of 1997-98.
There are still worries about whether the project is viable, with the drop in tourist arrivals since Sept 11 casting a shadow over ERL.
'We feel business travellers will not be affected, but ordinary tourists are still afraid to travel because of the current world scenario,' said Datuk Mohamed Nadzmi Salleh, ERL's executive chairman.
To attract these executives, the Hilton and Le Meridien hotels are being built as part of KL Sentral, the giant station that was opened officially in June.
Though the rail station itself is completed, the rest of the 28.8 ha KL Sentral project is being built in stages. It will cost RM4 billion when completed in nine years.
Other facilities will include condominium blocks, serviced apartments and offices.
Located close to the old KTM central station, KL Sentral is served by the KTM Komuter, Putra LRT and KL Monorel train services.
It also serves as KTM's main station in the city, with train connections to Singapore and Bangkok.
------------------------------------------------------ALL ABOARD THE EXPRESS TRAIN: Next stop, Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Luggage check-in at the station before boarding the train.
One-way fare is RM35.
Air-conditioned coaches take 156 seated passengers.
The train travels at 160 kmh.
Non-stop run between the city and KLIA in 28 minutes.
Second service, for airport workers and civil servants, takes 36 minutes.
Second service has three additional stops, including Putrajaya. --Reme Ahmad