The most obvious choice of transport for getting to Singapore from KL is by flying, or if you’d like to spend less, by car or bus. All these options take an average of 6 hours, or 5 if you’re flying (adding in time spent at the airport). A slower option, however, is to go by train.
So how do you get to Singapore by train? Well first off, a word of warning: the total journey time from KL to Singapore by train is around 7-8 hours, so if you’re just looking for a “normal” commute, do strongly going by bus/car or flight instead. But if you don’t mind experiencing the train ride as part of the journey, or like me, simply want an excuse to take the train, then it is an option to seriously consider.
Following the electrification and double tracking of the line between Gemas and Padang Besar, KTMB no longer runs diesel services on this part of the West Coast mainline. The first leg of the journey involves taking an ETS service to Gemas, before changing to the Shuttle Gemas service to JB Sentral at Gemas. Once at JB Sentral, you’ll have to make another change onto the Shuttle Tebrau to actually get to Singapore. As you can see its actually a rather cumbersome journey, which is why the sane option would be to take the bus or to fly.
Buying your tickets
You can purchase your tickets online from a variety of sites. One option is KTMB’s own ticketing intranet system which I wrote about here, but the company and the Prime Minister has publicly acknowledged the instability of the system, so I’d strongly recommend staying away from it for now. Personally I have used the intranet system before and found it to be user-unfriendly, and rather weirdly they charge a 5% surcharge.
For this trip that I took, I used Easybook, which also handles bus ticketing. The website is a lot more user-friendly than KTMB’s intranet, and displays the available train times in an easy to read manner. You can also select your seats, but it doesn’t show you the travel direction so you may end up facing backwards just like me.
For more information on ticketing sites, I’d recommend RailTravelStation‘s page about it. His site is quite informative with regards to rail travel in the region.
***For the trip report post, click here.***
The sector between KL Sentral and Gemas is served by the ETS. It is KTMB’s most modern offering and I’d consider it to be slightly on-par with European ones in terms of hardware. Service frequencies, however, are still low, which limits your travel options.
Trains in use are either Class 91s or Class 93s. The former mostly runs between KL and Ipoh whereas the latter handles the bulk of the long distance runs. As the service to Gemas is part of the Padang Besar/Butterworth service you’ll most likely get the Class 93s. They are very pleasant trains and quite the good ride with all the expected modern Intercity amenities. There is also a bistro counter should you feel peckish.
Operational-wise the Shuttle Gemas is treated as an extension of the ETS, as it serves to connect passengers from the North onwards to their final destinations in the state of Johor. It runs with either PT INKA coaches or ex-Japanese Blue Train coaches. For my trip I got the INKA coaches, which are pretty well built though the interior design could have been better. Still it does its job well, and the seats are more comfortable than the ETS ones. You really shouldn’t expect first world comforts on this sector, as the barebones service really is part of the charm.
There are no dining cars unfortunately but there is a trolley catering service. If you’d like your meals less cold or at least warm, buy them soon after departure as there is no microwave onboard.
The Shuttle Tebrau is a 5 minute ride between JB Sentral and Woodlands Train Checkpoint in Singapore. Tickets can be purchased online or at the counter in JB Sentral. KTMB has its own set of terms and conditions for the Shuttle Tebrau so you should read them here. If you add in the waiting and the boarding/deboarding process, the whole trip takes at most 1 hour, and is a lot less stressful than sitting through the jam on the Causeway.
Immigration checks are conducted at JB Sentral prior to boarding and at Woodlands Train Checkpoint in Singapore. An arrival card has to be filled up at Woodlands if you’re not a Singaporean citizen, so simply head to the far right of the hall to fill one up.
There are 3 MRT stops near the Woodlands Train Checkpoint but they are not within walking distance: You’ll have to take the bus, and again RailTravelStation has a pretty good post about bus connections to and from the Checkpoint.
***Remember to bring your Passports as since 1965, this is no longer a domestic border***