Friday, December 11, 2015

ETS stands for Electric Train Service

..in case you didn't know.

I have been toying seriously with the idea of travelling up to Ipoh on the ETS because I've been told it takes only 2 hours and 30 minutes from the KL station to the Ipoh train station.

How cool is that?

I am an avid train traveller, if you must know. Been travelling on the train since I was a kid as I was born in Singapore and after my family and I moved to Malaya in 1959, we would travel back to our kampung in Singapore by train during the school term holidays when my father was not able to drive us down.  During my teen years, we would travel on our own by train to visit our relatives in the island republic.

Overseas as a student and later for work and private visits, I'd make a point of travelling by train.

So really, I like train rides.

When the Kelana Jaya-Gombak LRT line began operation in September 1998, I was a regular Sunday commuter together with my children, nieces and nephews just for a funtime from Kelana Jaya to KLCC.

I wanted them to be familiar with train rides for one day they might just need to use it on a regular basis.
By the way, the Kelana Jaya-Gombak line that serves the Petaling Jaya South region - central KL is 29 km in length. It  is the fourth longest fully automated driverless metro system in the world, after Dubai Metro in Dubai(74.6 km), the SkyTrain in Greater VancouverCanada (68.7 km) and the Lille Metro VAL in LilleFrance (32 km).

Back to the our new ETS train service from KL to Butterworth and Padang Besar that has been in operation for quite some time this year.

I have read blogposts by people who have been on the KL-Ipoh service and they enjoyed it.  Mostly great reviews. Very appealing, this idea of an ETS ride.

After all , the ETS Class 93 high speed train service is dubbed the Malaysian 'Bullet Train'.

According to official data, Malaysia's first ETS train from Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh began operations on Aug 12, 2010. The first South Korean made trains can travel at speeds of 160km per hour and take only two hours to reach Ipoh making train travel much faster. This time around, the Chinese made ETS Train KL to Butterworth and Padang Besar will only take less than 5 hours. 

The fares, of course,  are pricier than those of regular KTMB commuter but then, you'll be paying for a service that's way faster. The fastest, in fact. 

For fares and schedule, check HERE  

also HERE
Where to go :
Kuala Lumpur Railway station (and ETS HQ) – Main Lobby – +6032272-3392
Kuala Lumpur Sentral – Level 2 – +603 2272 3392
Ipoh Railway Station – Main Lobby – +605 254 0481
The On-board Facilities:
  • Cafe Car and trolley service
  • LED televisions at both ends of each carriage
  • Disabled friendly toilets and priority seating for OKU
  • Interior CCTV system for all coaches
  • Power socket (one for each seat row of 2 passengers)
Looks like it will not be long before I try it out.

Here's from Tripadvisor.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Embattled Najib Faces Umno

It is that time of the year again when Umno holds its general assembly at the Putra World Trade Centre.
Every year cynics will dismiss the assembly to be yet another unproductive sessions of grumbles, grouses and growls.  Same old same old.

Yet, every year, there is something new. Or an expansion of what has happened since the last session.

Just look at what has happened over the past year.
To say that Umno is under siege is an understatement. This party has been that in the last two decades (and longer).

To say that the position of party president Najib Razak is shaky is so mild. But nothing unusual because his predecessor Abdullah Badawi had been in an almost similar position but different circumstances.

Former PM and Umno president Dr Mahathir was up against rebelling and dissident deputies and colleagues during his time - Musa Hitam, Tengku Razaleigh and Anwar Ibrahim.

Najib is faced with attacks no less vile and malicious than Dr Mahathir when he held the reign. Reformasi was raised from the wave of discontent and dissatisfaction during Dr Mahathir's  premiership. That is history.

Najib is embattled. He is attacked by his former boss and former deputy. He has been dragged through the mud by Umno members themselves.

So now, he faces his party and the taikos and the makcik2, pemuda2 and puteri2.

Let's hear them

Interesting to follow the goings-on.

Yes -- another session. Detractors and critics will continue to vilify or mock the assembly dismissing them as a circus full of clowns.

I have my own criticisms but I wouldn't go so far as to say that. It is always so easy to do that -- you know, being all so intellectual and high-and-mighty and arrogant and all that.

I've been critical of Umno leaders -- in open discussions and writings - since my NST days. I've always believed that you deserve the leaders you get.

I am from the outside looking in. Thank God for that.

One thing for sure -- Umno has to evolve and be realistic of the new Malaysia that we are living in.

Meanwhile -- selamat bersidang.




Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Let The Show Begin

Let it ... but...

What a circus.

The debate on 1MDB that's almost certain to take place between challenger DAP lawmaker Tony Pua and 1MDB president and group executive director ArulKanda Kandasamy has taken a new development, or twist.

Earlier today, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia issued an ultimatum to the government : stop the planned debate between Arul Kanda and Tony Pua or else he will resign. 

I suppose you can say the guy has a point.. but why now? A little too late.

In a follow-up to this, Tony Pua held a Press conference to say that he was willing to forgo the live debate because the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) probe "is more important."


And he will be seeking clarification from Pandikar Amin tomorrow on his statement.
"I cannot let the debate jeopardise PAC investigations into the matter. 
"As a PAC member and a responsible MP, I cannot let Arul be barred from being called as a witness, so if the ruling stands, I have to abide by it," he said.
Waah.. I tell you.. Since when has Tony and his DAP colleagues ever responded this way to any BN political leader?

Pussy-footing. What poppycock. Bunkum.

Trying to weasel your way out, eh, Tony?
Drama sandiwara and wayang-lah. And that's what I love (most times) about our politics... you just have to keep guessing - in all this intrigue - what's lakonan and what isn't.
All this had escaped Mr Pua, huh? Now only, all this hit him -- after Arul Kanda opened the way wide open for the debate to take place.
Pua challenged Arul. He accepted on condition that Pua resign as PAC member. Pua made one noise. So Arul immediately announced that he was dropping that condition, so let's debate.
And then today, Pandikar Amin issued that ultimatum. Don't know who is in a quandary now and who is having a picnic now..
As for Pandikar : as I have said he does have a point. 
Whatever. We have little choice as spectators and the rakyat but to lie back and watch the show before the show if the (big) show is ever to take place.
Here's Pandikar's statement made in Parliament today.

"If the government still goes ahead with the debate, I will not get involved.. I will resign as Speaker,
"What is the problem if PAC carries out its investigation and subsequently tables the report... can’t Malaysians wait until the investigation by PAC is done? 
"Petaling Jaya Utara (Pua) is also in PAC, and Arul also will be called up by PAC. Why the rush? Will the debate get a conclusive answer? 
"The answer is no. We also know that the investigation report by PAC on 1MDB will also be presented to the House Committee.

The NST reported that Pandikar had earlier told the House that parliament would not stop the debate between Arul and Pua, provided that Pua either resigns from PAC or excuses himself from PAC's 1MDB-related proceedings.
He said had that Arul should not be involved in the investigation and cited  Standing Order 23(1)(e) which states that members are not allowed to give statements without the consent of the House committee. 
Pandikar also reminded the House that the role of a PAC member is that of an investigator, not a prosecutor (in reference to Pua.)

"The planned debate on TV will give space to discuss the matter and is premature as the (1MDB) invesigation is still ongoing. 
"It will affect PAC and attract prejudice of the credibility of both parties (involved in the debate). 
"Furthermore, the tendency to accuse a person's character is not allowed by Standing Order 23(1)(0)." 

(source: The Star and NST)
(Pandika's quotes taken from NST online)



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Traffic Deaths Preventable, WHO Says in Call For Road Safety

I am passionate about safety on the road and tough enforcement against reckless driving.
Here's an article I'd like to share. I need to point out that in terms of (most of the) best practices mentioned, Malaysia has been applying them. Imagine that the USA is named as a culprit.
Nevertheless, we need to move forward making our roads safe for everyone.
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) - Countries must introduce tougher laws to prevent drivers from speeding or drinking and help reduce the toll of 1.25 million people killed each year in traffic accidents, the World Health Organization said on Monday.
The United States, Indonesia and Nigeria are among countries failing to apply best practices, the WHO's Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015.
Car-makers can also play their part, a WHO expert said. Too often safety features are sacrificed in order to keep down car prices, Dr. Etienne Krug said.
"Better laws are needed on speed, drinking and driving, use of motorcycle helmets, seat belts and child restraints," WHO director-general Margaret Chan said, launching the report.
Halving the number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2020 is among the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals adopted last month by world leaders.
Cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable, accounting for 49 percent of fatalities, it said.
Chan said that low and medium income countries accounted for 85 percent of road traffic deaths despite having 54 percent of the world's vehicles. Europe has the lowest death rates and Africa the highest.
Road safety measures include better safety features on vehicles, the report said.
"We are talking about some rather simple and basic things such as seat belts, such as front-impact regulations, such as electric stability control," Krug said.
"The vast majority of cars being produced around the world are still not up to the best safety standards. Very often in many places the safety of vehicles is sacrificed in order to have improvements in prices," he said.
Better trauma care for victims is also key, Krug said.
"And that does not necessarily need to be expensive. Very often the assumption is that we need more helicopters and very fancy ambulances.
"In fact, a very basic ambulance with minimum equipment and people who are trained in simple (life-saving) measures could do a lot of good."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that city had cut traffic deaths to historic lows by making streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, and it was possible to do that around the world.
"Traffic crashes are something like the ninth leading cause of death in the world. They are the number one cause of death for people aged 15-29," he said. "The fact is that every one of those deaths really is preventable."
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Increase Targeted Road Policing to Reduce Rising Deaths on theRoad, says RoSPA

This is an article from RoSpa dated Sept 29 2015

Although this is about road safety in Britain, Malaysian authorities response for road safety can pick up on some of the ideas. 

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says more needs to be done to protect vulnerable road users after new figures reveal a rise in the number of deaths on Britain’s roads.
The family safety charity is advocating a range of solutions to drive down the number of deaths and life-changing injuries on Britain’s roads, including ensuring there are sufficient numbers of police targeting careless drivers who put themselves and others at risk.
Statistics released today by the Department for Transport show an increase in the number of people killed or seriously injured, in particular pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, last year (2014) compared to 2013.
RoSPA is concerned, as the figures show a  4 per cent rise in deaths to 1,775. Of particular concern is the number of vulnerable road users being killed or injured. Three-quarters of the increase in deaths were pedestrian casualties, meaning that last year one in four people killed on the road were pedestrians. There were also 16,727 child casualties in 2014 - up 6.2 per cent on the previous year.
Cyclists also still account for a disproportionately high number of casualties, with 113 killed in 2014. Worryingly, there was a huge rise in the number of cyclists being seriously injured, from 3,143 to a total of 3,401. This number has been increasing almost every year since 2004.
Motorcyclist deaths rose by 2 per cent from 331 in 2013 to 339 in 2014, and there was an increase of more than 400 who were seriously injured, taking the number to 5,628 in 2014, a rise of 9 per cent. Overall motorcyclist casualties increased from 18,752 to 20,366, an increase of 9 per cent.
There were almost 200,000 casualties last year on Britain’s roads - the first overall increase since 1997.
Traffic levels also rose by 2.4 per cent in 2014, which may account partly for the increase in deaths and injuries on our roads.
Nick Lloyd, road safety manager at RoSPA, said: “As our economy improves, we can expect traffic levels to continue to increase, so we must do everything we can to make sure this does not lead to even more increases in road crashes and casualties.
“The reductions in road death and injury in recent years will not automatically be sustained, without a continued commitment to road safety. We must remain focussed on making our roads safer for everyone, and especially for people travelling on foot and by two wheels.
“The number of pedestrian fatalities involving those over 60 has increased by 16 per cent, together with a 7 per cent increase in car occupants. With an aging population we must renew our efforts to reverse this phenomenon.
“It is estimated that between 240 and 340 people were killed in Great Britain when at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit. We must renew our efforts to highlight the dangers of drink driving.”
RoSPA advocates a comprehensive road strategy to help prevent deaths and life-changing injuries. Many of these will directly help to make urban driving safer, as that saw a 9 per cent increase in fatalities to 783. Measures would include:
  • Ensuring there are sufficient numbers of road police officers to properly enforce road safety laws, with more targeted road policing at the minority of drivers who put themselves and others at risk by speeding, drink driving and using mobile phones
  • A reduction in the drink-drive limit in England and Wales to 50mg per 100ml of blood, to match Scotland and most of Europe – in 2014, around 6.2 per cent of drivers said they had probably driven while over the current legal limit of 80mg
  • The introduction of a package of measures to reduce crashes involving young drivers, such as graduated driver licensing
  • Help for employers to reduce the risks their staff face and create when they drive or ride for work
  • Creation of a safe cycling environment and improvement of driver and cyclist attitudes and behaviour towards each other, to reduce cyclist casualties and help people who want to cycle, but are deterred from doing so because they think it is not safe enough
  • Introducing safer vehicles into our fleet as quickly as possible as vehicle technology improves
  • Adopting Single/Double Summer Time
Maximising the road safety benefits of telematics and similar technologies for young drivers, businesses and commercial drivers.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Manic Malaysians On The Road


I reproduce an article I did for my Saturday column in the New Straits Times in 2012. 

And why am I reproducing this? This could be an article I had just written today.
When I wrote this in 2012, accidents were still on high, Mat Rempits were king of the road after midnight , people were still going about "business as usual" on the road.

And today... business as usual despite experts having come out with recommendations and suggestions.

Malaysia continue to assume a reputation of having some of the most dangerous city and town roads. -NST  
Nuraina Samad

Sun, Apr 29, 2012
New Straits Times

When I obtained my driver's licence in 1974, the first thing my father did was to remind me to stay clear of motorcyclists on the road. Indeed, I feared knocking into any of them because as he would say, "You know, he could be the sole breadwinner of his family" or something to that dramatic effect.

I often held his advice close to my heart. Images of an injured motorcyclist sprawled on the road and his weeping family looking woefully at me would play in my mind. But heck, what did I know? I was just 17.

Then I, of course, wisened up. Over the years, I grew to be a bit hardened and a little less merciful to motorcyclists on the road. Steadily, most of them did not appear to be road users who deserved my undivided compassion.

Fast forward to 2012 and I still make sure I stay clear of motorcyclists. But that little reminder my father gave me has been somewhat obscured by the harsh reality on the road over the years.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam earlier this week disclosed that of the 59,897 accidents reported last year to the Social Security Organisation (Socso), 24,809 were people commuting to work daily, of whom most were motorcyclists.

These statistics represent only those reported to Socso which means that the figure could be higher because there are other victims outside Socso's radar. Besides, we all know there are many motorcyclists who do not have a licence and those who are underaged.

The report also found that 53 per cent of the victims were aged 35 and below which Dr Subramaniam lamented meant that Malaysia was "losing workers who were in their prime".

Dr Subramaniam also said that this had prompted the ministry to draw up a safety campaign to raise awareness and to reduce the number of incidents.

Clearly, this is all so worrying. But this is nothing new. Previous studies on accidents showed that motorcyclists formed the largest number of casualties.

I'm not sure what is deficient in enforcement of traffic violations because we get summonses for speeding, parking in non-designated areas, double-parking and other offences -- either from the police or local councils.

Yet every day, and this is no exaggeration, I am confronted with incomprehensible and dangerous traffic violations by motorcyclists. Every day. Beginning in the morning at the first set of traffic lights near my house in Taman Tun Dr Ismail.

Either Malaysians, at least Klang Valley denizens, are such a hardy, forgiving, tolerant and laid-back lot that they have accepted the shenanigans of motorcylists with a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy, or they simply go with the flow. Whatever it is, it is not going to help make the situation on the roads better.

We will not see the statistics on accidents easing up. Or have we forgotten that Malaysia has one of the highest numbers of road accidents in the world? Motorcyclists are the victims in accidents, yet most of them get away with murder on the road.

Let me just give a lowdown of the offences they commit everyday -- beating traffic lights, entering no-entry roads, making illegal u-turns in dangerous areas, speeding on any road, having defective tail-lights, not wearing helmets or carrying more than one pillion rider including children (especially in certain housing estates, Wangsa Maju and Setiawangsa come to mind) and the list goes on.

If scores of them have got away happily with these dangerous misdemeanours, then the message is clear to these serial offenders -- that it is okay to break these traffic laws. They don't apply to motorcyclists.

Malaysians shouldn't be blasé about this state of affairs. I know I am not. I honk at these inconsiderate and dangerous road users all the time.


Most of us who have travelled to countries where road users faithfully abide by traffic rules enjoy and appreciate the civility and safety on the road.

Surely among us are policymakers. Yet, we continue to assume a reputation of having some of the most dangerous city and town roads.

Have road safety awareness campaigns helped us in inculcating better habits on the road? Your guess is as good as mine.

I echo the sentiments of road safety advocates that enforcement needs to be stepped up and continually carried out. There should be no compromise.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Driving in the USA: Ikut Kiri, Ikut Kiri




This would be my second time driving a car in the US - in California to be precise.

Just like when I was in Canada for three visits. In Ontario, to be precise.

It is left-hand drive in both countries, in case you didn't know.

To be honest, it had been and is pleasant driving in both places - in Fullerton-Anaheim-Placentia (Orange County, Southern California) and in Toronto-Kitchener-Mississauga-Waterloo (Ontario) because basically motorists are not crazy, demented or/and mad. Particularly in Ontario.

In Mississauga back in 2010 when I first visited my son, Adel - I was honked at only once for blocking a lane I should not have been in. But ever so lightly honked.

In Anaheim in January this year, in an Asian neighbourhood - a motorist honked at me because I was driving a little too slow on a fast lane.
Yep, forgot the fast and slow lanes here are in reverse. But heck -- that happens in Asian neighbourhoods. Asians! Sheesh -- what do you expect?

And yesterday when returning back from Farina's place - at the traffic lights as I was making a turn. That was and is still puzzling. Was I driving too slowly? Perhaps.  Still -- just a single light honk. Not the rabid crazy Malaysian honk.

It is funny but I am quite nervous driving here and in Ontario because (generally) people are just so civil.

So used to the madness in KL? Perhaps...

Here, I worry - am I driving too fast? Am I turning too quickly into the next lane? Am I stopping too abruptly?

And the most recurring habit -- driving too far right in the lane. Something that spooks both Adel in Canada and Farina, here in Orange County, Southern California.
"Mummy, mummy ... you are too far right.. ", Adel used to say to me back when I was driving us around in Ontario. He was more nervous than me.  Then , I got nervous.

Here, hardly five minutes in the car and on the road, Farina said "ikut kiri ikut kiri, Kak Ena". I thought , at first, that she meant for me to keep to the left lane because i needed to make a left turn.

Then...aah. I was too far right.

I have until the end of the month to remember to "ikut kiri".

And if I forget, this will be the song with only two words that either Farina or Shaira will be singing to me as we cruise around the neighbourhoods of Fullerton and Anaheim or the Santa Ana freeway -

"Ikut kiri ikut kiri ikut kiri" ...

Remember, remember.




And Now It's 4...




Finally.... that moment came.  The Ringgit breached the RM4 mark against the USD, trading at RM4.02 yesterday.

I would usually react rather insipidly because firstly I'd be at home and spending in Ringgit and no reason to be needing to convert currencies and secondly, this came as no surprise.

This time, though, it is different because I am now in the US with my daughter who is studying here. I am concerned. Worried over what is to follow.

Early this year when my daughter came here to continue her American degree program at California State University, the exchange rate was hovering around RM3.81-82 to the USD.

Before I left on Aug 10, it was 3.86.

Sure, this will hit me as a parent with a daughter in the US.

But I have to say that I am a little fortunate because I actually was prepared for this.

Last year when preparing my daughter's departure to the US, I opened a foreign currency (USD) account back home so that any fluctuation in rates will not affect me. Yes, thank God, I did that.

Nevertheless, the concern is real.

But, we've been through this before. Thankfully, our prime minister then , Datuk Seri (now Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad handled it brilliantly, confounding all and sundry by imposing capital control and we not only survived but overcame it all.

We could have gone the Indonesian way if we had submitted to the IMF.

Most Malaysians who experienced that will never forget those trying times.

I do feel for those who are supporting their children's studies in the US. It will hit them, if it has not already.

I remember years ago when the exchange rate between the Ringgit and Pound Sterling began to make a sharp increase, some parents were forced to end their children's studies in Britain. Their kids had to return home.

I can only pray that we will overcome - yet again another trial and tribulation. How, I don't know -- I am no economist. But I was not born yesterday. Isn't this a cycle? Malaysia is not alone. So whether global  forces will come together to bring stability back or for our prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to come up with  a brilliant plan -- time will tell. Let's hope it will be soon.

We will see ...