The train is a very viable transport choice between Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
Look here for prices and timetables, and to book online: http://www.travel-penang-malaysia.com/ktmb-ets-schedule.html
Or see the official KTM web site, which is more difficult to use: KTM – train company web site – note that for purposes of the web site your point of origin is Butterworth, and destination is Sentral Kuala Lumpur.
Basically there are several trains a day in both directions, and the ticket prices as of this writing are RM59 or RM79, depending on which train you take. The train is one class.
This blog describes the journey from George Town to Butterworth, where the train station is located, and then on to KL by train.
Once you disembark from the ferry you walk straight ahead and then veer right, heading for both the bus station and train station.
You cross a pedestrian bridge over the railway, turn left…
… and then to the right for the train station, or straight still for the bus station.
It’s very easy to find. There is a lift that takes you up to the ticket offices and waiting area.
The station is bigger now, but it is very hot inside. You aren’t allowed access to the platforms until the train has arrived and passengers have disembarked. In my case we were allowed onto the train about 10 minutes before the train was due to depart. The carriages and seats are clearly marked, so finding one’s seat is easy.
The train departed on time, and arrived in KL on time.
There is a small café taking part of one of the carriages, with just few tables. You can buy coffee, teas, soft drinks, and a few light meals. The coffee was ok. The noodles I ordered were not very good.
The scenery is pleasant enough, but quite similar to the same trip by road.
The train makes a few stops along the way for short times, and is a smooth ride
There are clean toilets in a couple of the carriages. LCD displays show progress, the next station and the speed of the train, which reaches about 140kph.
And as I mentioned above, the train arrived on time.
Of the three choices of public transport to KL, which is better?
If you want to see the scenery, then surface transport. But really, once is enough.
The airfare can be a similar price to the train or bus, especially if you factor in the cost from KL Sentral station or the bus station to the airport, if you are flying out of KLIA. So I tend to think flying is better if you’re going to the airport.
From Penang to central KL all three modes take around the same time.
If you’re going to central KL, neither the train station or bus station is really in the centre, but you can quite cheaply and reasonably quickly get there. Whereas from the airport it’s a bit expensive by train to central KL, or slow by bus. So going to central KL I’d suggest the surface transport.
The train fare can be higher than many bus fares, but similar to the better bus companies. With a bus you might get WiFi, with the train you don’t, but there are working power points on the train for every two seats. The train is smoother and safer, and more comfortable, so that would be my choice, unless you want to save a few Ringgit by using a cheap and possibly not so safe bus company.
So, to summarise, my idea is to fly between Penang and KL if you’re then flying out of KLIA, or vice versa; otherwise catch the train.