Public transport users can look forward to a safer and more comfortable environment when awaiting their buses.
With the introduction of the electric train service (ETS), taking rail transport from Penang to KL has become one of the most comfortable ways to travel overland on the peninsula. It’s quick – between four and four-and-a-half hours – clean and efficient.
This handy guide will tell you all you need to know about catching the train from Penang to KL – and beyond.
Penang Train Station Explained
Penang’s main rail link is the Butterworth KTM Station, situated right next to Penang Sentral and accessible by a free three-minute shuttle bus from the ferry terminal.
Penang Sentral is Penang’s newest bus terminal – opened in January this year – and the new hub of northern Malaysia’s land transportation. It has a new computer reservation ticketing system, self-service ticket vending machines, and plenty of shops and F&B outlets. It’s a definite step towards giving Penangites a safer, cleaner and comfortable environment for using public transport.
After buying your ticket and going through security, head to the lower ground floor, where the bus bays are and where you can easily access the Butterworth KTM train station on foot, less than a minute away.
Most train schedules have been re-adjusted after the major 2016 railway system overhaul that introduced the fast tracks now serving ETS Butterworth to KL, and ETS Butterworth to Padang Besar.
ETS Butterworth to KL
Since the arrival of the ETS lines, Butterworth is no longer the “train hub” it used to be, and most of the connections with ETS services to and from KL and Padang Besar now stop at nearby Bukit Mertajam.
You have three main options from the Butterworth train station: the first is taking a southbound train to KL – a comfortable, easy and considerably quicker ride with the ETS.
ETS Butterworth to KL has Platinum and Gold services, reaching KL Sentral in four hours and four-and-a-half hours, respectively. Tickets cost RM79 (Platinum) and RM59 (Gold), the only difference being that Gold services make more stops at more stations along the way.
All ETS from Butterworth to KL stop at Ipoh. The current schedule from Butterworth is as follows:
The schedule of the ETS from KL Sentral to Butterworth is as follows:
KTM Komuter to Perak
The second option of trains from Penang is the southbound KTM Komuter Train from Penang to Taiping and Kuala Kangsar.
Besides the fast ETS, the other main improvement is that the KTM Komuter trains are meant to help locals easily and cheaply travel to neighbouring towns all the way to Perak. These are similar to the carriages you would find in any city metro – that is, with seats aligned along the sides, below the windows, and standing space in the central aisle. They cost a fraction of the ETS (about RM10 to Taiping) and are not that much slower either.
The service runs from Butterworth to Taiping, and continues to Padang Rengas.
The trains run only twice a day at 7am and 7pm, but you can take any of the hourly KTM Komuter services heading towards Padang Besar and alight at Bukit Mertajam, where the KTM trains to Taiping/Padang Rengas run roughly every two hours, from 5.42am to 9.42pm.
Malaysia to Thailand
The third option from Butterworth is the northbound KTM Komuter Train to Padang Besar, at the Malaysia-Thailand border, which leaves hourly from 5.25am to 9.25pm (except at 11am, 1pm and 8pm).
It reaches Padang Besar in one hour and 40 minutes, and only costs RM11.40. This train is by far the cheapest, easiest, fastest and more scenic way to reach the Malaysia-Thailand border. You may consider alighting at Arau or at Kodiang, where some incredible limestone caves sit just across the road from the KTM train station.
If you are Bangkok-bound, your best bet is to take the KTM service to Padang Besar which leaves Butterworth at 2.25pm. You will alight at Padang Besar station (Malaysian side) at 4.16pm. Head upstairs and buy a through ticket on the international train to Bangkok that leaves Padang Besar at 5.30pm.
Alternatively, you can choose between more categories of classes and trains at Hat Yai station. You can simply catch a minivan from the border for 50 baht, or wait for one of the two daily train shuttle connections between Padang Besar and Hat Yai, which leave at 9.55am and 3.40pm.
Another version of this article was published by the author at www.penang-insider.com, a growing travel and lifestyle online portal dedicated to Penang.
Marco Ferrarese is a musician, author and travel writer. He has written about overland travel and extreme music in Asia, and blogs at www.monkeyrockworld.com. He also curates the Penang Insider, the smart guide for traveling and living in Penang, at www.penang-insider.com. His latest book, The Travels of Marco Yolo, is available in bookstores. Follow him on Twitter @monkeyrockworld.