Just last week, I made a trip up north to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur yet again, my fourth such trip this year. I had a companion with me this time round and so I gave him the opportunity to choose his preferred coach. He chose to travel with Transtar Express Premium.
I booked the tickets with Regent Star Travel, an affiliate of Transtar Travel & Tours. Regent Star is conveniently located at Lavender MRT, which is a stone’s throw away from my office. Luckily for me, there wasn’t the usual crowd at the ticketing office so the booking was done in a breeze. I also got a discount off the published price, just by flashing my Transtar Express WorldCard which I signed up during the Travel Malaysia Fair 2008 at the Singapore Expo last October. Like any other Premium trips, the coach was almost fully booked by the time I made the booking, with only 6 seats left. My companion is not a fan of “Gunzel Seats”, unlike me, so I chose seats number 5 & 6 on the upper deck, which was the second row from the front.
Fast-forward to the day of departure, I arrived to check-in at Transtar Express Terminal at Hock Seng Building some 15 minutes prior to departure. The Premium coach deployed on the 8.30 am trip to Kuala Lumpur was AFS6666, a Scania K124EB 6×2 tri-axle coach with a horsepower rating of 420bhp. AFS6666 is one of the first generation of Premium double-deck coaches assembled by sksBus in Malaysia. At the parking lot, the gleaming gold-liveried AFS6666 was accompanied by AGG555, one of the latest coach in the First Class Solitaire range. AFS6666 departed the Terminal at precisely 8.35 am, and made a 15-minutes stop at Golden Mile Complex in Beach Road to pick-up the rest of the passengers who chose to board there.
Breakfast was served not long after clearing the immigration clearance at the Sultan Abu Bakar CIQ Complex in Johor. Hainanese Chicken Chop Rice was the menu for the trip. Served hot and steaming, it was just the perfect meal for breakfast. I had a good laugh watching a Thai comedy feature while having breakfast, thanks to the personal TV with multi-channel entertainment. Audio/Video-On-Demand was not available onboard Premium coaches. However, I was surprised when I found out that the automatic reclining function of my seat was faulty. Even some of the massaging functions were not in order. I had to force the seat back manually. That was certainly a downside to the otherwise a comfortable seat.
The bus made a 35-minute toilet break stop at Machap Rest Stop Area (RSA). In actual fact, the coach attendant announced that the stop will only last for 15 minutes. Looking at the delay, I had expected that the bus might actually take longer than usual to reach KL. Shortly after leaving Machap, hot beverages were served. Another toilet break at Kampung Bemban RSA was made at around 1.00 pm. By this time, I realised that the bus had travelled quite slow because shortly after we reached Machap, a First Class 3G coach which departed Singapore at 9.30 am had already caught up with us. My companion was bemused by this fact and started to ponder if the bus could reach KL on time or otherwise. My estimated time of arrival in KL was 2.30pm, an hour later than the scheduled time of 1.30pm (based on a 5-hour trip from Singapore usually taken on average).
The bus reached Sungai Besi Toll Plaza on the fringes of Kuala Lumpur just before 2.00 pm. Using the KL-Putrajaya Highway, the bus finally reached Pasarakyat Terminal at 2.30 pm, just as what I had expected. The trip was the slowest I have ever taken to KL. In comparison, my previous trip on Mara Liner Express from Johor Bahru to KL only took around 5 hours whereas the fastest trip was on Suasana Edaran Express, which took 4 and a half hours from Singapore. Another minus factor for this trip was the faulty seats. Apparently, I was not the only one who complained of the faulty seats. The two passengers who were seated on the Gunzel Seats, and my companion also reported that their seats were not in working order. I would be happy if Transtar could address the problems with the older Premium seats, and ensure that the trips adhered to schedule as far as possible.
I will give Transtar Express Premium a 3-star rating.