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Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011

Train coaches get new life in Malaysia


JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia — Malaysia launched a new train service Monday consisting of 14 coaches donated by the Japanese government amid high hopes it will help woo tourists.

The Malayan Tiger Train will operate on the east coast between Tumpat, in northeastern Kelantan state, and Johor Bahru, the capital of the southernmost Johor state. The route passes through about 700 km of mainly tropical jungle and villages. It takes about 12 hours to cover the entire distance.

Malaysia received the 14 used coaches from Japan a year ago after requesting them to boost its policy promoting rail transportation.

In the past Japan has donated used coaches to other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Indonesia as a gesture of good will.

The coaches were previously operated on Kyushu Railway Co. and West Japan Railway Co.

Thirty to 40 years old, they are still in good condition. The coaches were popular in Japan and were regarded as a "moving hotel" thanks to their sleeping berths, minimal vibration and low noise.

The train's new operator, Malaysian state railway Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTM), carried out modifications over the past year, most importantly changing the size of the train's gauge to fit Malaysia's railway tracks.

The service was launched slightly earlier than expected.

Besides the train donation, the Japanese government, via the Japan International Cooperation Agency, also sent an expert to Malaysia to provide help with carrying out the modifications and sponsored the training of eight Malaysian train engineers and technicians in Japan last August.

Fares range from 44 Malaysian ringgit (about ¥1,100) for a seat to 150 ringgit (about ¥3,700) for a premier-class sleeping berth. The train is expected to become a tourist attraction.

KTM expects 180,000 passengers to use the train each year and the service to generate more than 1.6 million ringgit annually.

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