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Push for Asean railway tourism

TRANSIT took note of this article regarding the concept of railway tourism in Malaysia.

Railway tourism is an increasingly popular way to travel through a country and experience what it is ‘really’ like. The sights outside the windows, combined with the slower pace of rail travel and the comfort of the rail carriage as opposed to the intercity bus, all combine to make rail travel and railway tourism a very warm and fulfilling experience.

In Malaysia there are many examples of railway tourism. There is the Jungle Train through Taman Negara, the North Borneo railway train from Kota Kinabalu to Beaufort in Sabah, and the Eastern & Orient Express from Singapore to Bangkok, which stops in Kuala Lumpur and Butterworth.

Given that 2010 is the 125th year of railways in Malaysia, TRANSIT certainly supports initiatives to encourage railway tourism.

Push for Asean railway tourism (The Star)
Monday January 25, 2010

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Malaysia is planning a different kind of tourism – railway tourism – as an added attraction to lure Western tourists to Asean countries, said Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.

She said the move would enable visitors to enjoy a slow and relaxing holiday from Singapore all the way up to the east coast states.

“They can enjoy the food in Malaysia and then take a train up to other Asean countries after that,” said the Tourism Minister.

The Malaysian leg, she said, would focus on Kelantan.

[TRANSIT: How about building a railway connection along the east coast between Malaysia and Thailand?]

“The ministry is identifying towns, provinces and target groups to complement this tourism product.

“Railway tourism will also open up the economy for rural areas, especially Kelantan,” Dr Ng said after putting forth the idea at the 13th Asean Tourism Ministers Meeting here yesterday.

On the response from the other ministers, she said they were surprised, yet happy with the idea.

“The 10 member countries have various levels of development, even in tourism, although we share similarities in terms of geography and climate,” she said.

“We can see Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam coming up strongly and I see this as a good synergy for us.”

Just like the Silk Road from China to India, Dr Ng said Western tourists could tour Malaysia, then move on to explore the other Asean countries.


Believe it or not, we at TRANSIT like the idea of railway tourism. We certainly can see ourselves enjoyinga trip along the west coast of Malaysia on the new electrified, double tracked railway. We can imagine traveling on the jungle train or the excitement associated with Balik Kampung by rail.

And, as 2010 is the 125th anniversary of railways in Malaysia, we would certainly hope that the tourism ministry and KTMB would come together to celebrate KTM125 with railway tourism initiatives.

The question of safety, speed, and reliability has to be addressed though. Railways may harken back to an age where travel was at a leisurely pace and people ‘immersed’ themselves in cultural experiences – but that ‘leisurely pace’ cannot be an excuse for slow & poor service.

Moaz from TRANSIT remembers his first experience traveling on KTM Intercity, between KL and Singapore. The departure was delayed by 1 hour, the train stopped after Seremban for 45 minutes, and then it took 40 minutes to get through Malaysian and Singaporean immigration.

After 8 hours of travel, Moaz decided to leave the KTM intercity for the last stage of his trip, and instead took the MRT to his final destination – a transition from the ‘old-style’ of railway tourism to the ‘new-style’.

So, a word of warning to KTMB and the tourism ministry – dont market railway tourism if you cannot provide good quality railway service that meets travelers’ needs.

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