I made the booking, and I have just now made the trip, by ferry from George Town to Butterworth, and then the train to KL.
The first thing I noticed is that the taxi fare to the terminal has gone up 33% after the government raised the petrol price about 10%.
The next thing is that the Penang ferry terminal entrance is undergoing some construction work, and it is even less clear how to get to the ferry. You just go straight in the direct of the water, past a few shops, following the path around to the left, and where the path divides, take the left side (where the sign says Masuk = entrance) up to the waiting area.
At that time of night, the sign said there were four ferries operating, arriving at about every 15 or 20 minutes.
There is WiFi available – Penang Free WiFi, but otherwise it is an un-airconditioned, covered area with some seats. There is no WC.
When the ferry arrives, the passengers disembark, the cars then drive off, the embarking cars drive onto the ferry, and then the passengers catching the ferry are allowed on.
There are toilets onboard.
The trip across the water takes about 15 minutes, and passengers are allowed off as soon as the ferry arrives.
It’s about five minutes walk to the station – go straight ahead, and turn right at the end – where the sign says – then follow the path. The station ticket office / waiting room is air-conditioned and clean. It had taken me about one hour from when I caught the taxi in Pulau Tikus to when I arrived at the station.
The rest of the area around the ticket office is under construction. I went to the ticket window to find out how to get to the platform. They are using new platforms, not the ones next to the ticket office. I told the ticket office attendant which train I was on, and she told me the train was departing at 11PM. The web site, and ticket says 10.28, so I said to her that it was going to be late. She said that it arrives at 10.28, so it will not be late. Interesting definition of late. The toilet in this office is OK.
To reach the platform you have to return to under the stairs which brought you to the ticket office, and there is a track across the rails to the platform. The staff opens the gate about half an hour before the departure and you are free to board the train.
As they are changing the station area I suggest you arrive in plenty of time to find the route to the platform.
I had a look at the other carriages. Here are a few photos.
I was in Coach L3 – which was easy enough to find, as the coaches are in order, and in Place 7A – which means Cabin 7, berth A.
The quality of the facilities and service has deteriorated markedly. In the previous first class sleeper there was an attached bathroom, with shower, basin and toilet. In this cabin there is only a wash basin. Previously the berths were attached and parallel to the side of the train, but now the berths are across the compartment, so they are shorter and you can’t stretch. I think the carriage corridor is narrower as a result. On the top berth your head is very near the luggage rack, so if the train had to brake suddenly your head would be hurt. If you remade the bed the other way it would be safer. I was pleased to discover there were two power points, as I wanted to recharge my phone, but disappointed that they didn’t work. Anyway, they are high up, so you need a long cord. You used to be given a 500ml bottle of water, and some more or less inedible food, but not any more. During the night it became cold and the blanket wasn’t enough. A jumper would be a good idea.
The train departed at 11.15, it was a bit of a bumpy ride, and from around 5AM there were annoying but unintelligible announcements about the next stop. The train arrived on time!! At 6.30AM.
There is a lounge in KL Sentral railway station for first class passengers on the third level, very near the hawker centre. Previously I think it was always open, so I went there to clean up and charge my devices. But now it seems to open for an hour and a half before a train departure.
I returned later when it was open. Now it is infested with cockroaches in both the bathroom and lounge, and some mosquitoes are around,too.
There are showers on the bottom level, again with cockroaches. And nearby, lockers, the smallest and cheapest being RM5.
I went to the ticket office on the second level to book a return journey,but the train was completely booked for the next five days. So, early booking is advisable.
If you can get a booking – book early – it is still a reasonable way to travel from Penang to KL, as you save a day travelling by night, and save a night’s hotel costs. It is now worse than in the past, but still OK and quite comfortable. But, ensure you use the toilet in the station before you board. Take something to drink onboard, but don’t drink any more than necessary because you really don’t want to use the toilet onboard if you can avoid it. Have something warm with you, like a jumper. And for safety consider sleeping with your head in the other direction.
Once the line is electrified it should be a much faster trip, and I don’t know if they will still provide a sleeper service. If they do, I hope they have new rolling stock.
You can see more photos on my older blog on the night train.