More missing puzzles follow Melaka tram announcement

TRANSIT is quite surprised to learn on last Saturday’s groundbreaking of the Melaka tram project. Among the claims are:

  1. World’s first environmentally-friendly tram on NGV
  2. Cable-free system in line with UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change
  3. Iconic for Malaysia
  4. Fare will be among the cheapest in the world
  5. Collaborative effort by Melaka, Pahang and Terengganu
  6. 25-year concession by homegrown MRails (80%) and State-Linked Company (20%)
The mass media touts the tram, as depicted by the video freeze, to be operational in May 2012 (TV3)

Najib hails eco-friendly Malacca tram

MALACCA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday stressed that despite the nation’s quest for greater modernisation, emphasis must be placed on environmentally-friendly technology to ensure sustainability and low carbon emissions.

He said long-term environmental conservation efforts were important and should not be compromised at the cost of development.

Speaking at the ground breaking for the Malacca tram project here, he described the project as iconic, not only for the state, but for the nation as well.

“This ‘Next Generation Tram’ is the world’s first environmentally-friendly tram that runs on a natural gas vehicle (NGV) engine. What is more special is that though this project was jointly developed with partners in China, the technology is home-grown and developed by a Malaysian, Datuk Jeya Kumar, who is an automotive engineer.”

Najib also said the project was suitable to be introduced here as it was in line with the state’s slogan “Where It All Began”.

The PM himself officiated the ground breaking for the tram system. (teganuku.blogspot.com)

Also present were Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, Terengganu Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said, Pahang state executive councillors and Mrails International Sdn Bhd chairman Tengku Abdul Rahman Sultan Ahmad Shah.

“During my ride from Merlimau to here, Ali told me that more than 10 million tourists visited Malacca last year and this year, he expects more than 12 million.

“The tram project is very timely and I am sure it will enjoy a high ridership. The charge is also very reasonable — only RM2 per trip and RM5 for the whole day — making it among the cheapest in the world.”

He said the project was a collaborative effort between the state, Terengganu and Pahang.

“They are all involved in providing the necessary training and other support.”

At a media briefing earlier, Jeya Kumar, who is president and managing director of Mrails International, said they expected the RM272 million tram to be open to the public in May next year.

He said the “Next Generation Tram” would revolutionise the locomotive industry and scrap the traditional “pantograph” system, in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to combat global warming. A pantograph is a device that collects electric current from overhead lines for electric trains or trams.

The development of the project was jointly carried out by Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI) and Mrails International.

Under the agreement, which was inked on March 3 last year, Mrails International had agreed to design, construct, manage, maintain and supervise the road tramway and operations for 25 years.

The company has also been charged with managing ticket collections for 25 years, with CMI taking 20 per cent of ticket collections.

Jeya Kumar said the Malacca tram corridor would begin from its depot next to the Ayer Keroh toll plaza and head to the heritage zone of Malacca — covering a distance of 40km and serving 11 of 14 major tourist spots.

The tram is a rail-borne vehicle, lighter than a train and differs from other locomotives, as the tracks are embedded in the street and is able to accommodate 120 passengers at a time. It caters to the disabled and will operate at 40kph.

“We expect at least 40,000 commuters daily and are hoping to export our train to other countries, like India and Africa next year.”

TRANSIT Says: While we admire Ali Rustam’s gusto in championing public transport for his home state of Malacca, we are still not happy with the news, especially considering the blunders with past aerorail proposal and Melaka monorail. The monorail blunder is one good enough lesson for the Chief Minister to review its approach in tackling public transport issues.

As a tourist destination, the state has a stake in ensuring the attractiveness of the historical city of Melaka to be sustained. Thus, a working and classy-looking public transport perhaps have an impact in keeping the tourists happy. But on the other hand, the rampant urban sprawl and congestion that follow the fast-paced population growth have made life difficult for the people to live and move around – and this will trickle down to the tourism industry. The priority should be on solving the congestion and urban sprawl problem, not on creating another snazzy-looking train system that suits more to a theme park setting rather than meeting the mobility demand of the public.

Tourist trams in Melbourne. (picasaweb.google.com/chandraidatta)

Tourists will be happy with a public transport mode that is easy to be understood and goes to where and when it says it will go. The demand for the average commuters are higher; they want the same public transport to help them move around according to the way they live (in other words, they don’t what their lives to revolve around strict timetables and weird, rigid and squiggly travel paths) . That’s why in other ‘easily commutable’ cities with heritage attractions, public transport is built to meet the requirements of the people first, and are complimented with transit services that are aesthetically enhanced for the convenience of tourists.

That’s why we are surprised to hear the distance traveled by the tram will be 40km. Door-to-door journey from Air Keroh to downtown Melaka rarely takes more than 20km. That is enough reason for this project to be further scrutinized and responsible parties to be grilled. But we will still look at these proclaimed facts:

World’s first environmentally-friendly tram on NGV (dubbed as CNG in most literatures)

Parry People Movers is the producer of CNG-run trams in the UK (Parry People Movers Ltd)

Non-electrified light rail has been employed in Disneyland theme parks (trams use CNG), and publicized by Parry People Movers of UK, but both systems involve journey not more than 15km per trip (the Melaka’s cable-free, non-electrified tram’s covered distance is at 40km!).

PPM technology allows cable-free operations that do not need electrification. On board, in the tram boogies, the batteries are charged when the trams stop at stations. The company’s website states that “For low-emission, high fuel efficiency and quiet self-powered operation, an on board LPG-fuelled automotive engine is used.”

Below is the definition of tram (taken from MRails’ website) which we found to be laughable (wikipedia does a much better job). Note the entrances which are designed to be on the left side of the carriages.

The tram vehicle as appeared in MRails website (MRails)

TRAM

A Tram is a rail borne vehicle lighter than a train and differs from other forms of locomotion in that their tracks are wholly embedded in the streets. This enables virtually complete integration with pedestrains and other forms of transport making simultaneous use of the streets. It is able to comfortably accommodate120 passengers at one time. It also caters to the disabled (OKU) because of its ground-level design. It comes with side sliding doors; two on the left and one emergency exit on the right.

What happened to the earlier impression of Melaka Tram with poorly superimposed state government crest!

We expect many light rail fans in this country will be upset with the tram project announcement being touted as ‘environmentally friendly’. After all, we believe that 99% of trams in this world be supported entirely or partly by electrification, either through cable or cable-free (as posted by youtube video below) design. CNG is still one of the many types of fossil fuels on the market. Perhaps that’s why Terengganu MB was there: he was happy the trams will not consume electricity generated from Paka.

Catenary free tram

Cable-free system in line with UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change

The flunked and decapitated Melaka monorail, during its launch, was touted as a world class public transport system that catapults the state to be on par with the developed OECD countries. So we should not comment more on this one.

Iconic for Malaysia

The tram model looks as if it is made from an autocratic communist state from the Stalin era. Will that stuck out like a sore thumb among a plethora of national image-pumping images of aerodynamic KLIA Ekspres, KL Monorail and PUTRA LRT that frequently appeared on the media all around the world?

Fare will be among the cheapest in the world

In downtown Portland and Melbourne, the tram services are available for everyone, and they are free of any charge.

Collaborative effort by Melaka, Pahang and Terengganu

With this note, should the state of Perak be mentioned to be one of the ‘collaborative partners’ in the MRT Project for Greater KL? Terengganu MB may be thankful that there will be no green house emission shift from Melaka to Terengganu.

25-year concession by homegrown MRails (80%) and State-Linked Company (20%)

MRails has no experience in managing transit project at this scale before. The state has never initiated any study for the project (which should be transparent enough, together with justifications as to why the particular technology has been chosen, and how the Public-Private partnership will allow greater accountability and competency), let alone an integrated public transport masterplan for Melaka. The sense of ownership in public transport is still lacking, as there has yet to be a local transit organizing authority or committee within the state or the local council levels in Melaka.

There is no authority looking over the scheme (where is SPAD during the groundbreaking ceremony? Shouldn’t SPAD be under the purview of the PM’s office?), and everyone has apparently been taken for a ride by Ali Rustam and his friends in MRails.

Will the residents along Air Keroh – Bandar Melaka corridor agree with the alignment? What level of public participation has been undertaken before the project can be given the green light? Is there any traffic impact on assessment on how the operation of the tram might affect the pattern of existing traffic? Are the trams be given exclusive lanes, and if so, will the system be effective in serving the mobility needs of the people effectively and holistically, so as to recompense the inconvenience faced by motorists?At about RM6 million per km, we suspect there will not be enough funds to build over or underpasses, and that the project will use existing roadways as much as possible.

The concept of yielding to transit vehicles is still new in Malaysia, and we are targeting May 2012 for the commencement of the system, when support systems have yet to be set up and the endorsement process for such system from the stakeholders are not being undertaken in a transparent manner. Failure of integrating the tram with other modes of transit, and with right of ways normally given to private vehicles, may result to an entire lock down of transport systems such as pictured here.

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22 thoughts on “More missing puzzles follow Melaka tram announcement”

  1. Not bashing blatantly, is there a need for such a project when they can’t get the basics (buses and the monorail) right? And any demand based on statistics? Routing?

    I took a friend to Meleka for a day trip by bus and was a total disappointment. We couldn’t go much as the Panorama double decker bus didn’t run on that day, after waiting almost 2 hours for it (no notice on service suspension). Wasted our time as we had to head to Melaka Sentral for our coach back to JB.

  2. We had an iconic tram before and it’s called the Penang Hill funicular. What a coincidence that both look nearly the same when they were in such a haste to replace the original hill railway!

    Just because a design is futuristic doesn’t mean it would not fit within a heritage area. Case in point are the systems of Strasbourg and Bordeaux.

    Cheap fares may sound good but how would it be funded? How much of its operating cost would be subsidised every year? Public-private partnerships may look affordable in the onset but they would eventually cost more in the long run, paid for by the public.

  3. 1. Has SPAD approved this project?!!!

    2. Has a techincal commitee studied these “China Malee” trams. Or perhaps, does these trams actually exist and tested before. errr…the Melaka Monorail was also China Malee, currently occupied by “other beings”….

    3. Does Petronas (our sole provider of NGV) have allocation for this project? NGV maybe cheap, but little that most of us know that its heavily subsidiesed by the Government (i.e. offcourse PetronasLAH!!) we understand Preference is given to industries that uses NGV for generating other sources of energy and least preference for commercial usage.

    4. Is there an appropriate act, enactment, ordinace or law (or whatever elseLAH) been passed for these trams to be on the road in the first place…since these trams are sharing the existing carriageway with the other road users (curious, just incase of accidents) & “insurance premiums, (wonder what would the actuarist package out of this deal).

    5. The rails act,1991 clearly states 3 months notices should be made available for “poor public, offcourse us”, to “voice out ” our concerns (the government call it, simply “feedback”)..being a Malaccan, We simply never saw, heard or talked any “evil” about this project.

    and 1 bonus question

    6. What does ground breaking ceremony means in Malaysia?? Has this project actually started, therefore approved….. or is it going to start and going to be approved or ………Malaysia Boleh!!!

    Regards

    Taboo

  4. This must be the work of the discreet government crony, nowadays crony is getting smarter. They really know how to “wipe their mouth after the meal”. You will see more “Malaysia Boleh” “achievements” later! Just wait and see.

  5. This must be the work of the discreet government crony, nowadays crony is getting smarter. They really know how to “wipe their mouth after the meal”. You will see more “Malaysia Boleh” “achievements” later! Just wait and see.

  6. Used to think I am an inventor and have come up with all kinds of schemes and although I did actually end up with inventions (perhaps more honestly described as innovations) I did really end up with one which really benefits the users of PLUS but for which PLUS paid me a pittance for that really useful innovation.

    But this one looks like one of those smart innovations that actually sounds like a scheme to make more monies and more monies for cronies.

  7. Inventors life are hard life because it is not easy for inventors to turn their inventions into money but usually ends up with others making much more money with their ideas.

    Sigh, that is the real world.

  8. I don’t care the life and welfare of inventors. What I really care is the wrongdoings of the government’s cronies that leads to abuse of inventions, abuse of profits, abuse of powers and abused over the average/poor/needies rakyat (people) like you and me.

  9. Compared to 1Malaysia’s RM36,000,000,000 MRT project does make Ali’s RM272,000,000 look like a few pennies in our pocket. However so i can smell Kroni-kroni is jumping for joy now….

  10. The tram launch was good….and i am referring to launch gambit….but unfortunately the company entrusted with this project MRAILS INTERNATIONAL SDN BHD……are bad pay masters…..and they expect for more than what they pay for…….they are good at requesting for the unbelievable…..and that too at the last minute……but when it comes to payment….they make the Event Company beg for the deposit…..and when they make the payment…….its 4 days before the event………and they expect the event company to perform miracles…….they them selves dont know what they want…….I WONDER HOW THEY ARE GOING TO COMPLETE THE PROJECT

    1. @Concerned

      That is disappointing (and embarrassing) but not otherwise unexpected (especially the “gambit” part). Do you have evidence that the event company had to beg for the deposit and that payment was only made 4 days before the event?

      If so, we would be happy to highlight that evidence here – although it might not be in the best interests of the event company (as they could be ‘blacklisted’ for going public).

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  11. @Concerned

    There’s no use of voicing your disgust/ frustration in a forum without any meaningful action. Get a lawyer, it only costs you RM50.00 (Bar Council Rate) to issue a LOD (Letter of Demand).

    The ball is in your court, after all the world viewed our PM officiating the “launch gambit” that you prepared. BTW, looked good.

    Taboo

  12. WE HEREBY AT BARNIE REDZAN PRODUCTIONS HAVE DENIED ANY INVOLVEMENT WITH THE RECENT NEWS ON THIS BLOG ACCUSING MRAILS INTERNATIONAL SDN BHD OF MISTREATING US IN REGARDS WITH THE MELAKA TRAM LAUNCH EVENT HELD RECENTLY ON MARCH 19, 2011 IN AYER KEROH, MELAKA.

    WE BELIEVE THIS PARTICULAR NEWS WAS MEANT TO SABOTAGE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN US AND MRAILS INTERNATIONAL SDN BHD.

    MRAILS INTERNATIONAL SDN BHD HAS GIVEN POSITIVE COORPERATION PRIOR AND DURING THE EVENT RESULTING IN THE SUCCESS OF THE MELAKA TRAM LAUNCH CEREMONY
    ATTENDED BY Y.A.B DATUK SERI UTAMA MOHD NAJIB BIN TUN HAJI ABDUL RAZAK, THE HONOURABLE PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA.

    Barnie Redzan
    (we rise to the occasion)

    1. Thank you for your comment.

      TRANSIT’s only concern is improving public transport policy in M’sia and improving investment in public transport which meets the needs of the Rakyat.

      We respect your right to present your side of the story. However, please note that TRANSIT would appreciate that such internal issues be handled internally from now.

      Kind Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  13. Dato Jeya Kumar A/L Varathan or as his newly designated title “Mr. Tram extraordinaire” or “Tram wannabe” has been making headlines recently with his plans of introducing the newest mode of transport exclusively for the “rakyat” of Melaka. Why Melaka? Recent news amplified by the Chief Minister of Melaka on the traffic and congestion in the state has perpetuated the need to come up with an alternative mode of transport to ease the traffic inflow especially on weekends. On this issue various transport experts have tried to impress the Melaka State government by trying to on a new mode of transport but sadly till to date the fact of the matter is that none of the modes introduced were able to kick off and one wonders why…Aerobus?? Melaka Monorail??
    In order to understand and appreciate what the fuss is all about, an explanation on what actually is happening needs to be detailed out. In the year 2010, precisely in the month of March, the 3rd to be exact Mr. Tram formed a joint venture company with a local 3rd party to undertake the tram project in Melaka and a principal agreement was executed between the government and this joint venture company to effectualise this project. The timelines involved and agreed upon was that the project was to be completed within a time frame of 1 year from the 3rd of March 2010. Till today the rakyat is still waiting to see the first tram car in action but sadly none is there let alone the tracks for the tram are still missing. What happened? A common engineer’s question would be where is the tracks for the tram to roll on? A common architect’s query would be where are the trams going to be housed? In a building? If yes where is the building or depot? In the river? Or is it invincible? A common Melakanian having domiciled in the State is crying out for an answer but his cries have gone unheeded….until someone highlights this matter in the newspaper.
    Lets gets into some interesting facts here, if one was to take the time to investigate this matter further a good starting point would be Mr. Tram’s company website Mrails international.com which is pretty impressive for a company which has no experience in delivering such a project anywhere in the world be it Africa or India. If indeed the company had done or constructed such a project before the website will be full of such pictures….again where are those pictures or news or advertisement congratulating the Company for work well done or evidencing the so called trams in motion??? Once again none!! Upon a careful perusal there is a picture taken on the day Mr. Tram signed a contract with CNR (the manufacturer of the intended trams) which clearly mentions of the trams being delivered to Malaysia in August 2011..are we missing out something here? The trams were supposed to reach the shores of Melaka in February 2011 and not August 2011!!!! What could have possibly caused the delay?? Rather strange as no mention made on what is causing the delay. As prudent think tanks of the business community one can only come up with only one glaring reason which is there was no contract signed at all between the parties!!!! Therefore was it a hoax deliberately to blind the eyes of the common man? Let Mr. Tram answer as only he can.
    What is more interesting is that Mr. Tram is being sued for reneging on an Agreement for the sale of shares in the joint venture company which was formed to undertake the project in 2010 and as a consequence of the said refusal to honour his part of the Agreement a writ has been filed in the Kuala Lumpur High Court for a substantial amount of monies due and owing to the recipients. The suit no is D-22NCC-271-2011 and was heard today. What could possibly be the contents of the Writ is much left to be desired. Anyone able to proffer an answer???

  14. What Nonsense!!! Ali Rustam what are you getting us into!! Just 1 month after YOU and OUR PM officated the ground breaking ceremony for this project, the very same company entrusted to undertake the development of this project is now internally suing each other!!!

    3 Years ago, U promised us Aerorail, WHERE!!! U promised us a DUAL carriageway monorail, RUBBISH!!! and now how long do we have to wait for this TRAM, Tell US Ali Rustam!!!

    WHY do we have to pay for your undoings!!! where is the due diligence!!! What are your people doing!!! THIS IS A BLOODY EMBARRASSMENT!! You are making a mockery out of us!!! Other states are laughing at us!!!

    All PRINCIPAL AGREEMENTS SIGNED BY/ WITH THE STATE OR ITS CLG’s MUST MADE AVAILABLE A COPY FOR THE RAKYAT!!!

    Disgusted Mallacan!!!

    Taboo

  15. @ John,

    Thank you for highlighting the writs summons.

    If you are sure and can proof that the agreement signed on 3rd March 2010 has a completion date clause, please forward a copy or extract to klangvalley.transit @gmail.com (TRANSIT) to get SPAD’s opinion.

    Regards

    Taboo

  16. Dear Moaz,

    We saw some works going on near the Ayor Keroh toll gate couple of weeks ago. Recently we come to know that is pertaining to the Melaka Tram project. What suprises all of us is there is no board of notice neither any public notification. The pictures of mobilsation are available in the contrators website http://mrailsinternational.com/projects.html. (Note: contractors claims that SPAD has not approve this project but works are being mobilised)…Malaysia Boleh!!!

    Moaz, why is SPAD and the other government agencies silent on this project. For about a year and half now, all we hear are propoganda events but no news of diligent execution. We did also check on SPAD’s website, again nothing. This is one project that has got trouble written all over it.

    De’souza

    1. Dear @De’ Souza

      Thank you for your observations. If you can share any photos with us, we would be happy to ask more questions.

      Our original questions about the Melaka Tram project were shared with some of our contacts in the Malaysian government who basically said that they could not deny a public transport project so long as it followed the law (at the time, the Railways Act and CVLB Act).

      There was also some confusion about whether a tram would be classified as a rail vehicle or a road vehicle (as it would be under different regulations).

      We have confirmed from Syed Hamid Albar, Chair of SPAD, that the tram is considered a rail vehicle, and therefore the requirements of the Railways Act (and its successor the SPAD Act) with respect to planning a railway (presenting a railway scheme, getting conditional approval from the Minister of Transport, and having a 3 months public display period before final approval) all apply here.

      In other words, starting the project without going through the process and getting approval from the Minister of Transport is a clear violation of the SPAD Act, and as such a punishment should be levied.

      Now here is the big question – what public servant or wakil rakyat would dare to make this info public and threaten to level a fine on the Chief Minister of Melaka?

      And that, is basically why the construction appears to be going ahead – SPAD’s hands are being tied.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

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