The Ekspres Rakyat Timuran running from Tumpat to Johor Bahru is a KTM Intercity service operated by diesel-hauled trains connecting the eastern states of Kelantan and Pahang through the East Coast Line down to the city of Johor Bahru. It is the longest single train journey in Malaysia.
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KTM Ekspres Rakyat Timuran train service
KTM Berhad, or KTMB for short, is the main railway operator in Peninsular Malaysia. The operator provides regional, inter-city and commuter services across the national rail network. Passenger services currently offered by KTM include KTM Intercity, ETS and KTM Komuter.
The Ekspres Rakyat Timuran is a limited-stop express KTM Intercity service running the East Coast Line, also known as Jungle Railway, down south to Johor Bahru.
Being the only express train service, the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran is used by travellers heading to and from the eastern states and Kota Bharu, the gateway to Perhentian islands. With no toll roads or expressways in the eastern states, the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran is the fastest way to reach the Northeastern coast of Malaysia by land.
Departure from Tumpat Railway Station
Tumpat Railway Station is at end of the East Coast Line, just few kilometers away from the eastern coast and the border with Narathiwat Province of Thailand across the Golok River. The station mainly serves locals living in Tumpat or Pengkalan Kubor, which is at the border of Thailand at Tak Bai.
For this journey, we will be starting from Tumpat Railway Station.
The Ekspres Rakyat Timuran will be shunted into the platform about 15 minutes before departure.
The Ekspres Rakyat Timuran operates with a mix of passenger coaches.
At the front, Premier Class or First Class seats are available with a 2+1 configuration. However, this class is not available for advance booking as it is only open for sale few hours prior to departure.
Finally, there are Superior Night Sleeper or Second Class sleeping berths suitable for a proper rest on overnight train journeys.
For this long journey, we recommend taking the lower berth for ease of access, a full window and more floor storage space.
Aside from the accommodation coaches, there is also a Buffet Coach serving up food and drinks throughout the journey.
The train starts the journey through the dense Malaysian jungle and soon reaches Wakaf Bharu.
If you travel to the Perhentian islands and wish to return from Kota Bharu to Johor Bahru by train, you do not need to travel up to Tumpat as the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran makes a stop at Wakaf Bharu, which is just across the Kelantan River from Kota Bharu.
At rural stations like these, tickets are checked on board the train by the conductor as the platforms are open for anyone to access. If you book your train tickets online with Baolau, show a printed copy or a digital copy of the e-ticket in your mobile phone or tablet.
The Ekspres Rakyat Timuran travels through the jungle at night, and after 2 hours into the journey the passengers in major towns have already been picked up by the train.
At dinner time, we head to the Buffet Coach attached onboard.
We order a Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice) for RM5.50 with an additional Telur Mata (Sunny Side Up) for RM1.00 plus an Iced Milo (Chocolate Malt Drink) for RM3.00. The prices for on-board meals in KTM trains are quite reasonable.
If you are too lazy to visit the Buffet Coach, a small catering trolley also makes its way around the passenger coaches during dinner, serving prepacked items similar to those sold in the Buffet Coach. For a freshly cooked meal, however, we recommend the Buffet Coach.
After dinner, time to sleep. The flat bed and clean bedding are comfortable enough for the night.
As daybreak approaches, you would find yourself in Johor state on the southern sector of the East Coast Line.
For breakfast, we head to the Buffet Coach again.
We order a set of Roti Bakar (Toasted Bread with Coconut Jam) for RM2.50 each, and a hot Kopi (Coffee) for RM2.00. These are not usually in the paper menu, but the staff is able to prepare this Malaysian breakfast easily.
As the train heads down on the southern sector, you will be able to see the progress of the electrified double track project between Gemas and Johor Bahru, which will allow passengers to take the ETS train directly from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and even Padang Besar to JB Sentral once completed.
Arrival into JB Sentral, connect with train to Singapore
The train arrives in the modern JB Sentral Railway Station in Johor Bahru around noon. If you are coming from Tumpat, the journey would take over 17 hours from beginning to end.
Once in JB Sentral, if you wish to travel by train from Johor Bahru to Singapore from the platform head upstairs to the main concourse and connect with the Shuttle Tebrau service to Woodlands, Singapore, or else proceed to the bus checkpoint if you are taking the public bus to Singapore, or simply exit the station to explore the city of Johor Bahru.
How to book your train tickets from Tumpat and Kota Bharu to Johor Bahru
Tickets on the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran train runs out pretty quickly, so we recommend that you book your tickets early in advance to secure your seat once you have sorted out your travel plans.
Baolau lists the Ekspres Rakyat Timuran service and classes available, so you can compare and select your preferred travel class and price.
Fill in the passenger form and select your seat. Proceed to complete the payment before submitting your booking request. Once your reservation is confirmed, you will receive an email with the electronic tickets attached.
The electronic tickets are valid boarding passes, which can be used to board the KTM train at the departure station. Passengers can print the e-ticket in advance or carry a digital copy in the mobile phone or tablet and present it before boarding.