KUALA LIPIS - Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) is expected to close down its 321km Gemas-Gua Musang stretch along the east coast railway to conduct major track repair works soon.
Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said that despite its earlier notice to KTMB ordering its closure on Thursday, he expected KTMB to appeal the decision.
"We have noticed that KTMB has continued to operate despite such risky conditions," he said.
It was important to stop as the Government had approved RM400 million (S$155.1 million) to improve the current railway track, he said after conducting a joint inspection with KTMB president Datuk Elias Kadir and KTMB chairman Datuk Nawawi Ahmad, senior SPAD officials and KTMB staff along the stretch yesterday.
The major track repair works involving 11 affected areas are expected to take up to two years to complete.
Among the affected parts along the stretch are railway bridges along Kuala Krai and Gua Musang in Kelantan, which face the problem of rotten wooden slippers, as well as soil subsidence and erosion affecting the tracks along Kuala Lipis and Jerantut in Pahang.
It is learnt that 13 minor derailments have occurred on the railway line since 2012.
Syed Hamid said while the notice issued was made in the interest of public safety, a final decision would not be made until KTMB had formally made their appeal.
"We understand KTMB's situation and their services are a real need. Therefore, their position must be improved from time to time," he said.
When asked whether the changes in the notice could affect those travelling during the upcoming Hari Raya season, he said the safety of the public remained the biggest priority.
"We have suggested KTMB to provide alternatives as we do not want to risk a big tragedy during the balik kampung rush," he said.
Admitting their financial shortcomings, Nawawi thanked the Government for approving the allocation, but hoped that SPAD would delay the closure notice.
"We will discuss our appeal during the KTMB board of directors meeting on Thursday and will hand it over to SPAD soon.
"While we are very concerned about the safety aspects of our passengers, we would also need time to adjust to the possible closure," he said.