Singapore rail services

Singapore has just one solitary railway route which terminates at the attractive art deco station of Keppel Road, located in the extreme south of the island.

The nearest MRT station is at Tanjong Pagar. The only other railway station on the island is at Woodlands, just south of the causeway linking Singapore with Johor Bahru in Malaysia.

It is actually owned and operated by Malaysian State Railways (KTM); an international extension of the Malaysian express intercity route from the Thai border through Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru.

International journeys terminate at Woodlands, where customs and passport checks take place for rail passengers entering Singapore.

The main train route from Singapore passes through the Malaysian border town of Johor Bahru and up the west coast direct to the capital Kuala Lumpur. There is also one daily service from Singapore which goes as far as Butterworth, the gateway for ferries to the island of Penang. From Butterworth you can also catch an overnight train to Bangkok.

There is a choice of two daytime services to Kuala Lumpur’s Sentral station departing at 08:00 and 14:00 and journeys take just under seven hours. There is also an overnight sleeper service departing at 22:30 and arriving in KL at around 07:30. The total distance by train from Singapore all the way to Bangkok is over 2,000kms and travel time is close to 48 hours. Tickets for each leg of this journey have to be booked separately.

Trains are spacious and comfortable and extremely punctual and efficient for Asian standards. You have a choice of 1st or 2nd class seats (now renamed to ‘premier’ and ‘superior’ respectively) in air conditioned carriages. There is a choice of ‘couchette’ style bunks or more expensive private en suite compartments for the overnight train.

Fares are excellent value on the whole, but booking a ticket from Singapore is much more expensive as an equivalent journey starting in Malaysia. For example, the cheapest 2nd class fare from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore is RM34, but for the same class of service in the opposite direction you will be charged SGD$34! This equates to double the amount.

A way round this is to make your own way to Johor Bahru station, just a short hop from the causeway. Booking a train ticket from there will be charged in Malaysian Ringgit, however for most tourists, the time and extra hassle involved hardly makes it worth the effort. Fares for the overnight service cost SGD$43 for a 2nd class sleeper.

Another route possible from Singapore is on the famous ‘jungle railway’ which is one of Asia’s truly great scenic journeys. It follows the main Kuala Lumpur bound route before branching off at Gemas and heading north towards the Thai border at Kota Bahru. To really appreciate the glorious scenery ahead, take an early morning train from Singapore, which will take the best part of a whole day.

This is a local 3rd class stopping service with basic seating but the scenery more than compensates. It travels through thick primary rain forest and up to mountain peaks shrouded in mist, over rickety wooden bridges and through narrow gorges. Fares from Singapore cost just SGD$30. It offers an alternative route into Thailand up the east side of Peninsular Malaysia. It is a rather arduous and time consuming journey but an unforgettable experience for adventurous travellers.