Railway transportation systems generally has lower frictional resistance when compared with highway vehicles, the carriages and wagons can be coupled into longer trains. With such inherent advantage, it is the most efficient land transport especially for bulk cargo like tin ore coal. It was rapidly developed and widely used in various sectors especially after the invention of steam engine in 18 century.
Modern rail transport systems first appeared in England in the 1820s. These systems, which made use of the steam locomotive, were the first practical forms of mechanized land transport, and they remained the primary form of mechanized land transport for the next 100 years.
Electrified railway was introduced at the end of 19th century, but only limited to large cities, such as Sweden, London, Paris and New York and it was used as rapid transit for urban commuting only. In smaller cities, tramways were generally the only mode of public transport.
Because Steam locomotives were rather labour intensive. After World War II, dramatically increased labour costs in developed countries made steam an increasingly costly. Meanwhile, the war had forced improvements in internal combustion engine technology that made diesel locomotives cheaper and more powerful. Many Steam locomotives were replaced by Diesel engine.
But, following the large-scale construction of motorways after World War II, rail transport became less popular for commuting. Meanwhile, air transport started dominating the long-haul for passengers.
In 1962, Japan introduces the first High Speed Rail – Shinkansen, to welcome Tokyo Summer Olympics, then again rail transport regain market share for intercity travel. Also, introduction of Light Rail was then rapidly taking place in many large cities, to replace or even reopen many of the abandoned old tramways system.
- The first railway line in Malaysia was opened on 1 June 1885, which ran between Kuala Sepetang (Port Weld) and Taiping – the heart of the tin-rich Larut in Perak. Only 13km in length, was because of the need to transport tin from mines to the coastal port.
- The second line was opened a year later in 1886, to link another tin-mining centre – Kuala Lumpur and Port Klang (Port Swettenham).
- Then, opening of the line between Seremban and Port Dickson in 1891. And, Teluk Intan (Teluk Anson) to Tapah Road line opened in 1893.
Following Federated Malay States Railway merging the initial 4 lines in 1896, railway Bridge across Perak River in Perak was constructed in 1900. Then the West Coast Line between Prai in Penang and Johor Baru was completed in 1909. East Coast Line between Tumpat in Kelantan and Gemas in Negeri Sembilan was completed in 1931.
Until approaching 21st century, Malaysia railway system hardly had any development. And the operations was mainly for inter-cities freight transport.
The first electrified commuter trains were introduced in 1995 to facilitate passengers between Kuala Lumpur and Rawang, and Kuala Lumpur to Seremban.
And the first high-speed train was launched in 2002, which provides Express Train services between Kuala Lumpur city centre and Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang.
Ironically, the railway station which links the first railway in the country was once annouced to be demolished to give way to the construction of Ipoh-Padang Besar project. Which is a continuation of Rawang-Ipoh double-tracking electrified railway system project. The Rawang-Ipoh project already completed and in operations since 2008.
Taiping railway station – the oldest railway stations in the country – being a heritage building in town, also part of the history, should be retained as heritage site and served as tourist attractions.