The curious case of the Putrajaya monorail

TRANSIT took note of this interesting article about the Putrajaya Monorail.

Curious case of a bridge to nowhere (the Star)
29 July 2009
By GEETHA KRISHNAN

TOURISTS to Putrajaya are told that the garden city, which is also the federal administrative capital, has eight bridges.

There has, however, always been curiosity over the ninth bridge in Precinct 4.

The Putrajaya Monorail Bridge - image courtesy of Skyscrapercity.com
The Putrajaya Monorail Bridge - image courtesy of Skyscrapercity.com

The structure was indeed built as a bridge but it was intended for the delayed Putrajaya Monorail project.

Described as the missing link in the developing public transport network in Putrajaya, the project has been hanging in the balance since 2004 when it hit a snag due to federal budget constraints.

Sill [sic.] in the works: A sign for one of the 26 stops drawn up for the *Putrajaya Monorail* network outside the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.
A sign for the “Putrajaya Monorail” outside the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry actually uses the image of a regular suburban train (can you see the two tracks?) and is clearly labeled “Stesen LRT” – image courtesy of the Star.

[TRANSIT notes: An image of the general logo for a suburban train is below, to the right, for you to compare.]

The network blueprint (click on the image above left) was to have two monorail lines, 13.2km for Line 1 and 6.8km for Line 2. What is ready is Phase 1 with a 9km track and a 4km underground tunnel with seven stops.

[TRANSIT notes: The image above left is courtesy of Skyscrapercity.com and not posted by the Star. It clearly shows the design for the Putrajaya monorail with two lines meeting along Persiaran Perdana.]

The planned 26 stops included the Putra Mosque, the Education Ministry, Putrajaya Hospital, the Putrajaya International Convention Centre, the Alamanda Shopping Centre and Precincts 9 and 14. Seven park-and-ride facilities were designed to complement the monorail service to allow public servants and visitors to travel freely within Putrajaya.

The monorail was also meant to integrate with the Express Rail Link (ERL) service running from KL Sentral in Kuala Lumpur to the KL International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang.

The incomplete monorail track just outside of the Putrajaya Sentral Station - image courtesy of the Star.
The incomplete monorail track just outside of the Putrajaya Sentral Station - image courtesy of the Star.

In a recent interview with StarMetro, Federal Territories Minister Senator Raja Datuk Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin said: “There will be a need for it in the future, especially when Putrajaya develops further,” but added that it would depend on the economy recovering.

Initial costs were estimated at RM400mil [TRANSIT: Ack!] but this was five years ago.

With the bridge, elevated track and tunnel slowly succumbing to the ravages of time and weather, the initial cost will balloon but the new figure has yet to be released.

The southern portal to the underground portion of the incomplete Putrajaya monorail - image courtesy of the Star.
The southern portal to the underground portion of the incomplete Putrajaya monorail - image courtesy of the Star.

Contents of the feasibility report prepared by an independent consultant which conducted a three-month study last year remain off limits while the population count in Putrajaya is at 55,000 and rising.

Perbadanan Putrajaya (PPj) president Tan Sri Samsudin Osman has been a strong advocate for the project and has repeatedly urged the government to reconsider its move to delay the project.

“Putrajaya needs a world-class public transportation system with foreign missions set to open their doors here.

“There is also an international school,” he said, adding that 18 foreign missions have inked agreements with PPj for land parcels.

Most of the civil servants interviewed declined to give their names but felt that the monorail system would benefit Putrajaya in the long run as it was the new federal administrative capital.

By banking on the monorail and bus network in its masterplan, Putrajaya offers limited parking space to reduce the number of cars on its roads.

The Core Island where the Palace of Justice is based alongside several ministries such as Finance, Entreprenuerial and Cooperative Development, Agriculture and Agro-based Industries and Federal Territories only offers 30% parking space.

In lieu of the monorail situation, more parking spaces have been opened up. [TRANSIT: BIG mistake]

The new 1,403-bay facility near the Express Rail Link (ERL) station in Precinct 7 complements the acute shortage at the P&R facility in Precinct 1. More bays will also be available in Precincts 13 and 14.

PPj has also made plans to beef up its bus service with 104 more buses bought with the RM70mil allocation under the 9th Malaysia Plan. [TRANSIT: 104 buses is more than Putrajaya needs for regular intracity transit and Park & Rider services – how about some more service to other communities?]

A growing population and residential precincts that are either fully developed or at an advanced stage of development will benefit from this.

TRANSIT Says:

TRANSIT has commented on the Putrajaya Monorail before, back in April 2008, the last time the issue was brought up by the Putrajaya Corporation.  Frankly, we did not see the need then for a mass-transit system on the scale of an LRT or monorail for a town that is relatively low-density in many areas and still has a very small population (55,000 people + daily visitors). And frankly, we do not see the demand now or for a very long time in the future.

The monorail is not acting really as a public transport project, but rather as a “feel good” and “satisfying” project to impress people about Malaysia’s federal administrative capital.

Considering that the capacity of the existing KL Monorail is approximately 6,000 passengers per hour per direction, and the population of Putrajaya is 55,000 plus the government workers, we cannot see the need to spend so much money (RM400 million to start) on the monorail.

A bus rapid transit system along the surface of the main boulevards of Putrajaya could easily carry 6,000 passengers per hour per direction, (or more than the entire population of Putrajaya plus workers and visitors in a single day) at a fraction of the cost of the proposed monorail.

Even if the bus rapid transit service were combined with supplementary feeder bus service and park & ride service and all of that service were made free, it would still be cheaper than building and operating the monorail.

The problem is, as usual, that people who make decisions often see public transport as a way to impress people instead of an economically efficient system to move people around – usually because they do not make use of the service themselves.

TRANSIT suggests that the Putrajaya corporation take some of their 104 new buses and implement a bus-rapid transit system (or even a regular bus system) that follows the route of the proposed monorail as shown above.

Some of the additional buses can also be used to introduce more bus links serving the Multimedia Super Corridor, and connections to surrounding cities like KL, Kajang, Puchong, Petaling Jaya, Sepang, Dengkil and Cyberjaya (among others).

It goes without saying that these services should have fully accessible buses. The Putrajaya Corporation (PPj) should also build some real bus shelters along Persiaran Perdana.  They might might distract from Putrajaya’s built-in parade route (probably the reason why no shelters were built before) but shelters are necessary to get people to use public transport.

And yeah, we are disappointed that people would bank on the monorail (or LRT or KTM or whatever) and do nothing to improve public transport on a large scale while we wait.  That is a symptom of planning for the sake of planning, not planning for the sake of reality.

The original commentary about public transport in Putrajaya, by Moaz Yusuf Ahmad from TRANSIT, is enclosed below:

RE: Let the Putrajaya monorail sleep for at least a decade

I have learned recently that the government will commission a study to decide what to do with the Putrajaya Monorail.  This incomplete project, abandoned since 2003, has once again been brought to our attention thanks to a marvellous display of distraction by the Putrajaya Corporation, the company responsible for the ongoing construction and maintenance of Putrajaya.

Let me say clearly that Putrajaya does not need a monorail.  It does not have the density to support mass transit.  Passenger demand for a monorail does not exist and will not exist for generations.  What Putrajaya needs is a real effective and useful public transport service.  I can attest to this, having visited Putrajaya on many occasions (using public transport) since I came to Malaysia in 2005.  In fact I have walked more than once from the Putra Mosque to the Western Transport Terminal (now called Putrajaya Sentral) because it was faster to walk than it was to wait for the bus.

On my most recent visit (21 April, 2008) I attended the Majlis Bajet Consultation 2009 at the Finance Ministry to discuss improvements to the public transport services in Malaysia.  After the consultation was over, the rest of the guests and government officials were probably driven home in private cars.  I chose to wait for the bus to get me back to Putrajaya Sentral.  I know that it is only through real experience using the public transport system that we can discover its strengths and weaknesses.

In the case of Putrajaya, the first weakness has to be the clear lack of information that is provided to bus users.  Standing outside the Ministry of Finance building, I could see numerous bus stops along the main boulevard but there was no bus route information at any of these bus stops.  I had to flag down two buses in order to find out how to get to Putrajaya Sentral.  It turned out that I had to cross the (traffic-free) boulevard and walk another 100m to reach the proper bus stop.

Another weakness is the lack of bus shelters especially in the main ‘island’ area.  For some reason, the Putrajaya Corporation decided that there was no need for bus shelters to go with the bus stops along the main boulevard of Putrajaya.  Perhaps the Putrajaya Corporation thought that there would be no need for bus shelters since the monorail would be built.  But I have to wonder about the thinking of a company that can plan for a monorail and yet forget simple details like bus shelters in a hot and humid and wet country like Malaysia.

The irony became even stronger as it started raining, forcing me to take shelter under an ornamental palm tree.  Fortunately, the bus arrived before the rain became heavy. 

Once I boarded the bus, other interesting things appeared.  The bus appeared to be filled with passengers, but most of the passengers were actually crowded into the front of the bus despite the fact that there was space and empty seats in the back.  The trip back to Putrajaya Sentral took approximately 5 minutes, passing through the residential area of Presint 8, but no passengers boarded the bus after I did.
 
For these reasons I can safely say without the need for an exhaustive study that there is no practical reason to complete the Putrajaya monorail.  The passenger demand would be too low, and the costs too high, to justify this decision.  At the same time I know that since Putrajaya is the administrative capital of Malaysia, if the powers-that-be decide that a monorail should be built, then a monorail would be built.

But it should not be built now.  The government should put the monorail project on the shelf until 2017.  Until then, the Putrajaya Corporation can concentrate on improving the existing bus transport system.  They can start with simple things like bus shelters and route maps and bus schedules.  They can also buy buses that use “green” technology like natural gas or diesel-electric hybrids (of course they must use Malaysian biodiesel for fuel).  They can ensure that the buses are fully accessible, for the benefit of all citizens.  Finally, they can provide frequent bus service along the same route as the proposed monorail.

These small and low cost improvements to the bus service will probably meet the existing and future demand until 2017 and save the government some money at the same time.  And, if the government really feels the need to have the monorail, there would be enough time to restart the project and get the monorail in place for August 31, 2020.
 
Sincerely

Moaz Yusuf Ahmad

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4 thoughts on “The curious case of the Putrajaya monorail”

  1. My view is the Putrajaya is another location to be developed. I also believe that the railway is not necessary to come after the developement. I believe that the developement can also come later after railway because railway itself can inject economy values to a place.

    During those days when the Gov decides to shift its main administration building to Putrajaya away from KL. I was very agree it to be done. Earlier, the infrastructure developement was more concentrating developing KL. Until now, KL is very saturated as it provides so many opportunities for jobs or business. I strongly agree we need to have few more developed city, which can reduces the saturation in KL and the developement gap between KL and other places.

    Many people had complaint on the project those days but the leader of the Country on that time (Tun Dr.M) insisted to complete his mission as he had his views on further prospects. He believed by developing Putrajaya, Malaysian will have another city to be proud of besides KL. The infrastructure in Putrajaya is properly planned and design such that when any other delegates from overseas or tourists come to Putrajaya, they will be impressed by our uniqeness, and our abillity to develope the country.

    The construction of the Monorail Putrajaya had started long ago but it was called for stop half way. The structural of the Monorel which is already build previously is left abandoned without proper maintainance as nobody is assigned to take care of the structure. Therefore, i feel that it is time to continue on the project such that we wont waste on the money we had spent before.

    Another reason I agree on the Monorail to be constructed in Putrajaya because it is the best place to promote our Malaysia-made Monorail technology to the other countries. The Monorail technology business might be one of the main contributer to our economy strength in future as the traffic problem is very common to other countries too.

    I will vote for Monorail Putrajaya Project to be continue such that more developement can be done in Putrajaya and ease current traffic congestion over there such that tourists or other delegates will impress with our developement but not complaining about the poor transportation plan.

  2. I live in Putrajaya..almost 6 years now…Putrajaya is developing gradually. Right now the night population is reaching 75k..
    I support that the stall Putrajaya monorail to be redeveloped. Putrajaya supposed to cater 335,000 residents/population. When the pouplation reached to that level, a good reliable public transport is needed.
    Invest now, for the future….

    1. @drezhar

      Thanks for the feedback. 2017 is not that long off and it would take at least 2-3 years to complete the project anyways.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

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