Monorail project in Penang?

Blogger Anil Netto (www.anilnetto.com) posts that the Penang State Government has “given the green light to a low-profile businessman, Jeyakumar Varathan, to build and commission a RM70-million monorail test track on a 30-acre site in Batu Kawan.”

The paper suggested that this could be a sign that the state is embarking on its own monorail plans and cited sources as saying that the groundbreaking for the project could be in December.

Jeyakumar’s consortium may first have to prove that its technology is viable before it can build a monorail network in Penang, the paper added.

Some questions arise:

  • How much is Jeyakumar paying for the 30-acre site in Batu Kawan?
  • Does the state government have a public transport masterplan and is a monorail part of it? First, it was the monorail and then subway, next it was the ‘aerorail’ – and now it’s back full circle to monorail?
  • What about other public transport options such as a bus rapid transit system and trams – which could be more cost effective? Have they been considered? How does Porr fit in?
  • Has the state government informed and briefed members of the Penang Transport Council? The perception is that its members are in the dark about this monorail thing. Why the secrecy?
  • Does Jeyakumar have a proven track record? Is the Penang state government aware of Jeyakumar’s attempts in South Africa? (See “Monorail king goes mum“.)

TRANSIT Says:

We do not want to be seen as “for” or “against” any particular type of technology but at the same time our priorities are clear. We want to see public transport improve through better planning, regulation, organization, financing and public consultation and participation.

A very interesting report on Monorails from the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (with detailed information on Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya’s monorail projects) raises serious concerns about planning for public transport and questions the motives of some monorail providers who aim to push the technology rather than participate in the master planning of public transport.

TRANSIT is certainly concerned when the Penang government does not plan public transport in an open and transparent manner. As Anil says in his post above, they have gone from monorail to underground to aerorail and back to monorail.

At what point do we get to see a master plan that follows their own “Competency, Accountability, Transparency” principles?

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