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Malaysian workers in Singapore look forward to fast train home

by August 8, 2016 General

Congested traffic from the Woodlands Checkpoint to the Causeway. — Picture by Roslan KhamisCongested traffic from the Woodlands Checkpoint to the Causeway. — Picture by Roslan KhamisPETALING JAYA, Aug 9 — Malaysian expatriates working in Singapore are upbeat about the upcoming Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail link (HSR) project despite reservations over its cost and punctuality.

Restaurant manager Simon Jacob, 32, has been working in the city-state for six years. The Klang native said he returned home once every two months.

“It may turn out to be beneficial considering I travel by bus, which takes five hours at night, longer during the day,” he said.

Jacob said he spent an average of S$35 to S$38 (RM105 to RM114) to go home, and RM60 to return to Singapore. For him, ticket pricing and timing are a factor.

“It’s good if taking the train means I can save travelling time, especially at the Customs. But if it is too expensive, I might as well fly as it only takes 45 minutes,”  he said, adding he can at least choose from different carriers with different pricing.

However, in cases of emergency, Jacob said he would not mind paying the full price, even if it was several hundred ringgit.

The location of the stations is also important. Jacob said if it took more than an hour from the KL station to his home in Bukit Kuda, Klang, it would be pointless to travel by train.

McDonald’s outlet manager Simon Rodriguez, 29, makes monthly trips to his hometown at the Portuguese Settlement in Ujong Pasir, Malacca. He has been doing so by bus or by car for over five years since he started working in Singapore.

“Both take me about two and a half to three hours. It costs RM84 for a return trip by bus, and RM120 to RM130 in fuel and toll if I drive,” he said.

Rodriguez viewed the HSR positively, saying he did not mind spending a bit more on train tickets if it was much faster than other methods.

“If the ticket costs RM40 or RM50 more than my driving expenses, then it is okay. But if it is really expensive it would be unacceptable,” he said, adding it would be the same if the Malacca station is an hour’s journey from his house.

“Of course, in certain emergencies, it is not a problem paying the full price, as long as I get there in time.”

A social policy researcher, who began working for one of Singapore’s public higher education institutions over half a year ago, said she tried to return to her parents’ home in Damansara every month if time and work permitted.

“The new service will definitely make travel easier for me. I don’t have an exact amount I’d be willing to spend but somewhere between the price of a bus ticket and the price of a flight ticket sounds reasonable,” said the 25-year old, who requested anonymity on professional grounds.

With a round trip bus ticket costing her RM140, she said she would not normally take the train if the ticket price was expensive and she was not pressed for time.

“But of course, the bus takes longer, so if I needed to get to one or the other place very quickly, I could be OK with several hundred ringgit and more,” she said.

Pizza maker Vincent Yoong, 27, began working in Singapore almost three years ago. The Kajang lad said he would return home between once to four times annually.

“Yes, it (HSR) will benefit me due to the shorter travel time. I’ll be expecting S$40 for a one-way trip or S$60 to S$80 for a return trip,” he said.

Like many of the others, a higher train fare would mean he will only take it if he wanted to save travel time or in case of emergencies.

“A flight from Singapore to KL only takes 60 minutes, but I heard this train takes around 90 minutes,” Yoong said.

Primary schoolteacher Melissa Chin, 26, lives in Johor Baru but travels across the Causeway three times a month to shop. She said the time it took driving there depended on the time of the day.

“With no traffic, it is about 45 minutes, but with traffic, it can take up to two and a half hours, including time spent waiting at Immigration,” she said.

Her travelling expenses are relatively cheap, as it only costs RM18 in tolls for return journey. Nonetheless, she is optimistic about the HSR bringing in more economic opportunities to the country, especially for Johor Baru.

“It will most certainly bring an influx of more people, particularly Singaporeans willing to spend their currency on Malaysian goods and services,” she said.

Ticket pricing is important to her but unlike the others, Chin said she did not mind it if the Johor stations were some distance away from her house in the outskirts of Johor Baru.

“I only head to KL to visit relatives once in a blue moon, so the HSR would be very convenient. But if the pricing is ridiculous, I would rather use my car or take the bus,” she said.

Interior designer Ho Ping Yet, 32, also lives in Johor Baru with his family. He said ever since he began working in Singapore nine years ago, he had become accustomed to getting up early to make it on time.

“I leave home by 6am, and expect to reach there by 9am. Travelling by bus is more efficient for me, and it only costs me RM20 in daily expenses,” he said, adding the HSR project is certain to bring benefits but has its own costs. 

“It remains to be seen how they will plan this project, from the location of the stations to the ticketing price. I doubt many would be happy if they have to pay through the teeth just to get from Singapore to KL, not to mention waiting long hours for each train. Ultimately, it all boils down to costs and punctuality,” he said.