First impression of Subang Airport Skypark Link

Posted on: May 18, 2018, by :

Commentary, Others

first impression, KL Sentral, KTM Kommuter, LRT, public transport, Skypark Link, Skypark Terminal, Subang Airport, Subang Jaya

Subang Airport is popular but… mind the traffic jams!

Many people living in the western and northern parts of the Klang Valley, Subang Airport will be their first choice for taking domestic flights. This is because of the relative proximity of Subang Airport to most parts of the Klang Valley.

When I was working and living in Penang, managing a university college, I tried to spend some time with my family at least once every 4 – 6 weeks. Subang Airport which is only 13 km from my home in USJ was my favourite airport to commute between Penang and home.

However, Persiaran Lapangan Terbang Subang (Subang Airport Road) is notorious for traffic jams, especially during peak hours and whenever there is a heavy downpour.

For my usual early morning flights to Penang, the same journey from USJ to Subang Airport would take only 15 minutes!  Because of this, I would usually plan my journey to depart from Subang Airport as early in the morning as possible. Likewise, I usually would try to arrive at Subang Airport from Penang after 8:30 pm to avoid the peak hour’s crawl, especially around the Citta Mall area.

Once it took my wife over 2 hours to travel the 13 km from USJ to pick me up at Subang Airport during off-peak hour of around 8 pm. There were two accidents, one of each side of the road! The return journey was a little better, it took just over 90 minutes.

Enter Subang Skypark Link

When news of the test run of Subang Skypark Link broke, I was naturally delighted. Although I no longer work in Penang, the introduction of this service from KL Sentral to Subang Airport (Skypark Terminal) via Subang Jaya station is a great development. Subang Skypark Link has the potential to reduce traffic on the Subang Airport Road and allows air passengers a more dependable mode of transport to other parts of the Klang Valley.

The intermediate stop at Subang Jaya station is a great move as this station is the interchange for both the LRT and KTM Kommuter services. Thus passengers have a choice of connections  from the Subang Skypark train where the LRT (Kelana Jaya Line) will link up with the Sri Petaling line at Putera Heights Station. For KTM Kommuter passengers, the train service to Port Klang is accessible via Subang Jaya station.

Test-riding Subang Skypark Link services

My wife and I decided to take advantage of the month-long free test-ride of Subang Skypark Link to check out the new rail service recently. We began our ride from Subang Jaya to Skypark Terminal. The KTM staff was polite and helpful. Of course KTM would not give us a free ride from Subang Jaya station to KL Sentral. There was already the LRT or Kommuter train that ply that route too (and we would have to pay!).

Here is my two cents’ worth on this service.

The confusing platform at Subang Jaya Station

Both KTM Kommuter heading to KL Sentral (opposite direction) & Skypark Link trains share the same platform, a bit confusing for commuters!

At the Subang Jaya train station, the Skypark Link train shares the same platform with KTM Kommuter train. This is fine as this is common practice for KTM Kommuter services and with good announcement system and signages on train, commuters will be well informed. However in this case the KL Sentral bound Kommuter train was using the same platform as Skypark Link train but travel on the opposite direction! So shall we look left or right for our train?

The 3-coach Skypark Link trains look refurbished!

Distinctive orange colour scheme, the 3-coach Skypark link train looks very unique.
The dull looking roof of the coaches of Skypark Link makes these look like refurbished rolling stock.

Skypark Link trains use a distinctive orange paint on its bodywork. This is good as it distinguishes the 3-coach trains from the normal Kommuter trains. However, looking at these Skypark Link trains from the outside, they look like refurbished rolling stocks where the top of the trains look dull giving the impression that these coaches have been lying around idle for a while!

However, once inside the coaches, the bench-type seats and railings are well designed, cleaned with the interior brightly lit.

Spacious interior of Skypark Link’s train. Bench-type seats give more standing & baggage room.

“Scenic” Route

The track from Subang Jaya station to Skypark Terminal actually first goes west, towards Batu Tiga station but veers to the right shortly after passing by Empire Shopping Mall (on the left) near Subang Racquet & Golf Centre. It traverses the Federal Highway and Persiaran Kerjaya via two “tunnels” . It then passes by two golf clubs on the right, with the Glenmarie industry area on its left. The track also rises above North Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE) and Subang Airport Road (near Ara Damansara Medical Centre). After that it follows the course of Sungai Damansara on its right before arriving at Skypark Terminal, just opposite Subang Airport. Although the brochure indicated that the journey from Subang Jaya station to Skypark Terminal would take 7 minutes, our test-ride took about thrice as long, at around 20 minutes (the return journey took around 15 minutes).

The final stretch of the Skypark link route passes through some scenic golf courses before approaching Subang Airport. (Source of map: Google Map, the Skypark Terminal to Subang Jaya station route is highlighted in red)

The new track is built from Skypark Terminal station to Subang Jaya station. From Subang Jaya station onward, it shares the same track as the existing KTM Kommuter line.

Nice Skypark Terminal station but….

The Skypark Terminal station is very nicely built. It is spacious and well lit.

Spacious walkways of Skypark Terminal station.

But I wish there is more than just one escalator for each platform as many commuters will have baggage to carry and it is a pain to carry these while walking down the stairs. Of course there are the lifts for the disabled which is good.

Both platforms are served with only one escalator each!

The passageway leading to the exit is spacious. The Customer Service centre is located just at the exit.

Ticket machines are already installed. But on the day of our visit, none of these are operational. I think the ticket system will also accept Touch N Go cards.

Ticket machines are installed but as of May 18, 2018 fares have not been announced yet.

Clear LED information boards are strategically located in several places, informing commuters of the train services. I hope the information on this line could be “live” and constantly updated as in the LRT system.

LED signboards giving information on train services are strategically located.

Skypark Terminal Station is  located at the far end of the car park opposite Subang Airport terminal which means that commuters will have to use the single overhead bridge to cross Subang Airport Road.

Wide entrance to Skypark Terminal.
Skypark Terminal station, viewed from the car park which looks neglected.

Although the “direct route” from the entrance of Skypark Terminal Station to the overhead bridge to reach Subang Airport is around 300 m, if one is to use the covered walkway, the distance will be another 200m at least.

A pre-existing overhead bridge links the car park plus Skypark Terminal walkway to Subang Airport. This allows travellers to cross the busy Subang Airport Road & access roads within Subang Airport safely.

Hence there is no fully enclosed (and sheltered) walkway between Subang Airport and Skypark Terminal. And the walk from Skypark Terminal station to Subang Airport can be very taxing for those who are travelling with a lot of baggage.

The walkway running the perimeter of the car park to the overhead bridge, has only a roof which does not fully protect the travellers from the elements.

The overhead bridge to cross Subang Airport Road is serviced by a lift which is a little bit on the small side, especially troublesome for those with large-sized luggage.

The walkway is joined with the overhead bridge where a lift helps travellers to move up 3 flights of stairs.
A small lift is provided at both ends of the overhead bridge. These are a bit small for those with a lot of baggage.

The overhead bridge is facilitated with ramps on both ends which means that commuters with bags or those on wheelchairs can roll up or down the staircase at both ends.

A ramp is found on each end of the overhead bridge.

Once you have arrived at Subang Airport, you need to remember that the overhead bridge brings you to the first floor of the airport. Again, if you have a lot of baggage, you will need to navigate to the escalator to get down to the ground floor for check-in etc.

The overhead bridge ends at the first floor of Subang Airport terminal building.

Plus points

  1. The Skypark Terminal Link provides a more reliable (compared to cars) for air passengers to get to / from Subang Airport.
  2. The journey time (when fully operational) of less than half an hour from the heart of KL (KL Sentral) and 7 minutes from Subang Jaya station means the “last mile” for air travel using Subang Airport is that much more certain. This is provided KTM does not practice train cancellations, delay etc. that are the common grouses of commuters relying on KTM Kommuter services.
  3. The link provides a much needed linkage between Subang Airport and KLIA / KLIA2 via the combination of ERL-Skypark Link. This will facilitate travellers that need to shuttle between the two airports to catch flights, especially domestic flights via Subang Airport.
  4. Skypark Terminal station, aside from some minor quarks (lack of escalators for both “going up” and “going down”, is spacious, with good LED signages.

Minus points

  1. Skypark Link needs to share the rail track with KTM Kommuter from Subang Jaya Station towards KL Sentral (and vice versa). This means any delays due to congestion on this track will have an impact on the timing and reliability of the service.
  2. The lack of a seamless linkage between the Skypark Terminal Station and Subang Airport present a challenge for travellers with young children and lots of baggage. The designated partially-covered  walkway, requires users to go around the perimeter of the car park, adding considerable distance for travellers to walk. As this walkway only has a roof, travellers are exposed to the elements if there is a heavy rain.
  3. The sharing of KTM Kommuter’s rail track from Subang Jaya Station towards KL Sentral means that Skypark Link’s train services will be subjected to the congestion experienced by KTM Kommuter users currently. Thus travellers using this service, compared to the ERL, will have to budget at least another 30  to 45 minutes extra time to use Skypark Link if they do not wish to run a risk of missing their flights at Subang Airport. A simple solution may be to just concentrate the Skypark Link trains to ply between Subang Jaya station and Subang Airport, where the track (aside from a small stretch between Subang Jaya and Batu Tiga station) is fully dedicated for the Skypark Link. This will inconvenient travellers who have to transfer either from KTM Kommuter or the LRT (coming from KL Sentral).  However the LRT service is a lot more reliable. The journey via LRT from KL Sentral to Subang Jaya will take around 35 minutes which is not too long compared to having the risk of delays.

A good addition to public transport

Despite the shortcomings, I think the Skypark Link train services is a good addition to the Klang Valley’s public transport network. The interchange with other mode of public transport  at KL Sentral and Subang Jaya stations provide more travel options to travellers compared to the current over reliance on road transport. It will be better if the reported service intervals of once every hour (from June 01, 2018) could be increase during peak hours for flights (such as early in the morning and from 6 pm to 8 pm).

At the time of writing this article, the fares for the two stages of Skypark Link services have not been announced. I would expect that a fare of  RM10 or lower for the full KL Sentral to Skypark Terminal (Subang Airport) and RM3 or lower between Subang Jaya and Skypark Terminal will be fair and will attract good ridership.

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