SINGAPOREANS have given the new shuttle train between Woodlands and Johor Baru (JB) Sentral the thumbs up.
The Shuttle Tebrau, run by Malaysian rail operator Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM), was launched on Wednesday, offering seven trips a day in each direction.
Although early services left Singapore relatively empty, checks by The Straits Times on Friday evening and yesterday morning found the train carriages packed.
In addition to Malaysians heading home, many Singaporeans used the service to go shopping, eating or take a relaxing day off in JB.
Some said they would previously have taken taken a bus or driven across the Causeway, but found the train more comfortable and less of a hassle. The journey takes five minutes, the immigration queues are shorter and there are no traffic jams, cutting journey times by at least half an hour.
IT consultant Ann Ang, 44, found it "so much easier" to get through both Singapore and Malaysia's immigration checks in one go, rather than hopping on and off buses on each side. "I don't have to keep carrying bags up and down the bus," she added.
Said polytechnic student Muhd Haikal, 23, who heads to JB at least once a month with his father to go shopping: "You feel you have to rush and compete with other people to get on the buses, and that can be quite frustrating."
Currently, trains depart from Singapore at 6.30am, 8am, 9.30am, 5pm, 6.30pm, 8pm and 11pm.
However, some passengers said they would like to see more services, particularly in the afternoon.
Retiree A. Ramanathan, 64, said: "Now, you still have to get up very early to catch the train and stay in JB till the evening. If there were more frequent services, we wouldn't have to plan ahead and could choose to cross the border any time."
Friday's 6.30pm service was sold out hours before its departure, with many passengers booking online, and queues formed 30 minutes before it set off.
A one-way trip costs $5 from Woodlands and RM5 (S$1.79) from JB. The train can hold around 320 passengers.
Services to and from Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth and Gemas stations used to start and end at Woodlands station.
With the new shuttle, these services now begin and end in JB.
Dental technician Norazlina Hamid, 42, was one of the passengers who booked their tickets in advance, and managed to secure a seat to return home to JB.
"Last time, there were only three train cabins, we were standing shoulder to shoulder," she said. "Now tickets are $5, more expensive, but worth it because (there are seats)."
Malaysian logistics worker Tan Huei Siong, 40, who returned home from work on Friday evening, said: "If I take a bus, it will take more than one hour and I will be stuck in the jam, so I am willing to pay a bit more to get home faster."
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