Monorail extension to Jalan Klang Lama – will it help or hurt existing monorail service?

TRANSIT has taken note of the Malaysian government’s plans to expand KL Monorail service by introducing 4-carriage trains with greater capacity, as well as extending the KL Monorail service to Taman Gembira along Jalan Klang Lama.

Malaysian monorail builder Scomi Rail has been given the contract to provide the 12 new 4-carriage trains, which will be a variation on Scomi’s SUTRA model. More information about the SUTRA can be found in this article or at the Scomi Rail website. Check out this video showing the actual SUTRA train operating on the test track at the Rawang facility.

The cab of a Scomi SUTRA train mockup, at the launching ceremony in November 2007. Image courtesy of Star Biz.
cross-section, side and interior views of a Scomi SUTRA monorail.

According to the various reports in the Malaysian media, the KL Monorail is already 35% over capacity. More interestingly, the different articles (thank you Scomi for collecting them into News flashes 1, 2 & 3) have different numbers about the capacity of the new monorail carriages compared to the older ones. One says that the older carriages can carry 98 passengers and the new carriages will have a capacity for 128 passengers – and then claims that this is an almost 40% increase – which it is not

Do the math: 128 / 98  x 100 = 130 … meaning the increase is much closer to 30%.

And just to make things more confusing, another article claimed numbers of 107 / 135 (old & new carriages respectively).

So we have to wonder where the media are getting their sources and why Scomi would allow different numbers to be made public about their product.

Even more upsetting is the claim that with the new 4-carriage trains the line will have a carrying capacity of 6400 passengers per hour per direction. If we extrapolate back we would assume that line capacity with the 2-carriage trains are in the range of 3,000-3,200 passengers per hour per direction.

These are strikingly poor line capacity numbers that are more in range with a middle-capacity Bus Rapid Transit system or a tram/streetcar! And the monorail cost us 40 million USD per km!

Monorails have a place in our public transport plan, but a line-capacity of 3,000-3,200 (or even 6,400) passengers per hour per direction is a shockingly low number that does not fully explore the potential of the monorail as a public transport technology – or a solution for Kuala Lumpur.

Anyways, the article about the monorail extension is below. You can also see a jpeg. image of the article’s cover and inside page. The inside page also includes this slightly inaccurate graphic, outlining the various routes planned under the Urban Rail Development Plan.  We really wonder when certain organizations within the Malaysian media (and they know who they are) will improve on their fact-checking and publish accurate stories and information – rather than unclear stories & speculative information as they do now.

Monorail extension to Jalan Klang Lama (NST)

7 December 2011

By NURADZIMMAH DAIM
KUALA LUMPUR
streets@nstp.com.my
Land Public Transport Commission proposes that the Monorail service extends to Taman Gembira

A 2-carriage KL Monorail train passes below the KL Tower. Image courtesy of the NST.

A PROPOSAL has been made to extend the KL Monorail services from its Tun Sambanthan station to Taman Gembira in Jalan Klang Lama.

[TRANSIT: The original plan for the monorail was to extend it to Kampung Pasir along the Klang River, where there was a plan to build a new DBKL administrative centre.

Where exactly is Taman Gembira? This google map shows a Jalan Gembira intersects with Jalan Klang Lama, but Taman Gembira is well off to the east of Jalan Klang Lama.]

It was among the proposals in the Urban Rail Development Plan, which is included in the Greater KL / KV Land Public Transport Master Plan, prepared by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).

According to the plan, the KL Monorail extension is to provide improved accessibility to Bangsar, Mid Valley and Taman Gembira and relieve the congestion approaching KL Sentral from the south.

[TRANSIT: We are not exactly sure how the monorail extension will help Bangsar. In any case, we prefer the proposal of Fikir Runding which had a north-south line running from Puchong straight to through MidValley to Selayang – some of which is recreated in the proposed MRT Line 3. Undoubtedly residents of Puchong would prefer direct access to KL from the south via Jalan Klang Lama, rather than having to go through the roundabout route of Sri Petaling, Bandar Tun Razak and Pudu.]

There are also plans for a light-rail transit 3 (LRT3) linking Klang and Shah Alam and to the Kelana Jaya line.

This would allow city commuting to be transferred from Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) to the LRT and enable the former to focus on long distance services in the suburbs.

[TRANSIT: This is actually a huge risk. Commuter services from KL-Klang must be properly improved and expanded so that the bulk of long distance trips are via KTM Komuter. The extension of the Kelana Jaya LRT to Subang Jaya and USJ, with the integration with the Komuter service at Subang Jaya, is likely to overload the LRT line during peak hours already. If commuters start using the LRT to come from Klang to KL or Shah Alam to KL it will be a disaster.]

The existing LRT lines are Kelana Jaya (to Gombak station) and Ampang (from Ampang and Sri Petaling stations to Sentul Timur).

The existing KL Monorail service is from KL Sentral to Titiwangsa and it covers 11 stations.

The Sungai Buloh-Kajang MY Rapid Transit (MRT) project, which has been approved, will cover a 51km route with 31 stations.

There are also plans to introduce the MRT2 Circle Line, which would link Mid Valley, Mont’ Kiara, Sentul Timur and Ampang as well as upcoming areas near the Matrade building in Jalan Duta.

According to the Urban Rail Development plan, the Circle Line will be developed in two phases, the first being the Western and Southern sections linking Ampang with Mid Valley, Matrade and Sentul; and the second phase would link Ampang with Sentul Timur.

Subject to technical feasibility, an initial estimate suggests a length of 29km for phase 1 with 22 stations, and another 12km for the second phase with eight stations,” states the plan.

[TRANSIT: Those are key words, subject to technical feasibility.]

There is also a proposal for a different MRT route known as the MRT 3 new North-South line.

It is aimed at linking areas like Sungai Buloh, Kepong and Selayang with the Eastern half of the city centre including Kampung Baru.

In total, the MRT 3 would cover a distance of 36km, served by 24 stations to be built 1.5km apart.

“Where the line operates in the city centre, it is proposed that this should be underground.

“Where the line crosses existing rail lines it is proposed that interchange stations are provided. This will encourage interchange between lines.”

The guiding principles for the preparation of the plan by SPAD were to maximise potential usage of current asset and services; provide capacity expansion to cope with demands through line extensions; and constructing new lines to meet demands and future developments.

[TRANSIT: The big problem here is that SPAD has allowed itself to do what other planners have done – draw lines on maps and plan “extensions” without really considering the issues & challenges that the existing services face. Can this monorail extension have enough carrying capacity to meet the needs of all those people who are planning to approach KL from the south? It will likely have trouble with the people who want to get to & from  MidValley!]

Its chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said the public was welcomed to give feedback on the plan, which also covers bus and taxi services, through its website http://www.spad.gov.my or customer feedback line at 1800 889 600.

The Land Public Transport Master Plan was released last month.

TRANSIT Says:

We think that the KL Monorail extension south to Jalan Klang Lama is a prime example of “what not to do” when it comes to public transport planning.

The original plan for the monorail, which was to run from Titiwangsa to Kg. Pasir on Jalan Klang Lama is some decades old. It was part of the unrealistic plan to build the KL Linear City over and along the Klang river which was abandoned during the 1997 Financial Crisis.

Only one part of the monorail, from Titiwangsa to KL Sentral, was actually built, opening in 2003. The monorail also lost a station (Sultan Sulaiman) from the original proposal. Occasionally since 2003 the KL Monorail operator would make statements about plans to revive pieces of the project, such as building the car parks or talking about an extension to MidValley, but nothing has come from those proposals. And fortunately, since the takeover by Prasarana in late 2007, we have not been subjected to these silly proposals.

So the first “big problem” with the monorail extension is this attempt to revive the old plan. Unfortunately, it is quite likely that the proposed extension will be costly and technically challenging – especially trying to thread the KL Monorail past the Federal Highway! In addition there is the capacity problem – it will be hard for the monorail, even with 4-carriage or 6-carriage trains, to carry the existing passengers who want to go to & from MidValley.

SPAD wants to send a monorail to do an MRT’s job. This is a recipe for disaster.

The second problem is that the monorail extension to Taman Gembira (or Jalan Gembira) would not be particularly effective. Sure, it would provide another connection to MidValley MegaMall, somehow, but in terms of public transport networking, the terminal is particularly poor. It would be much more effective to extend the rail line southeast through OUG & Kinrara or directly south to Jalan Puchong, or even southwest to Bandar Sunway, than to leave it at Jalan Klang Lama – especially if the goal is to attract passengers from the south side of KL.

But again, if the extension is integrated with other lines or extended further south there will be capacity issues, which will lead to other problems.

The third big problem is the issue of integration with the existing monorail at Tun Sambanthan station. In the original design, the monorail would have continued from Tun Sambanthan station southwards, bypassing Brickfields, while service to KL Sentral station (then called Brickfields) was to have been accomplished by a shuttle train.

But if the extension is built, there will have to be a process to integrate the two lines. Through-running of the monorail would be next to impossible (have you seen a double-track monorail switch?) which means that passengers who wanted to continue on into KL or transfer to KL Sentral would likely have to switch to an overloaded KL Monorail train. This sounds not only inconvenient but very problematic as both lines would likely be affected.

The fourth problem to consider is the role of the MRT Circle Line. The original proposals had the line running through Brickfields and servicing  MidValley and the Tenaga Nasional Lands, as well as Universiti Malaya. If this is the plan, then why duplicate services through Brickfields?

The ideal solution for TRANSIT is to take the KL Monorail and leave it to do what it can do best – provide a people mover service around the inner areas of Kuala Lumpur. Indeed, the best solution is to provide a new monorail line that would extend down to MidValley, but would also serve Bangsar & the Government developments at Jalan Duta, reaching up to Jalan Ipoh before coming back southwards to Titiwangsa integrated station.

We are not talking about building a Monorail “Circle Line” but rather, providing additional people mover lines that will connect the radial routes provided by KTM Komuter, the LRT and the future MRT. A monorail through Bangsar would integrate with KTM Komuter (at MidValley, Abdullah Hukum, and Jalan Ipoh), the LRT (at Abdullah Hukum and Titiwangsa) and the MRT (at KL Sentral, MidValley, and Pusat Bandar Damansara).

More importantly, it would be an effective use of monorail technology, which is suited to people moving rather than mass-transit, and is especially effective in tight areas and hilly areas – like Bangsar, Pusat Bandar Damansara and the government complexes at Jalan Duta.

Building a monorail along a flat river bank, or along a wide road like Jalan Klang Lama (which has lots of room for an elevated MRT) is a pointless activity that does not demonstrate the abilities of a monorail, and would most likely give us a line that is poorly connected and too small and too slow to meet the needs of KL’s growing population.

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8 thoughts on “Monorail extension to Jalan Klang Lama – will it help or hurt existing monorail service?”

  1. Good depth review TRANSIT….I hope the authority will listen to you. I am agree that Monorail may not take the capacity like MRT. It will be totally disaster..

  2. I think your article is missing some vital information.

    The Sutra monorail has a calculated capacity of 128 passengers per car @ AW3 load. As the PPHPD capacity is linked to the operational headway, to increase capacity you just increase the number of trains/cars in operation.

    I agree, definitely the monorail does not have the capacity of systems like the MRT but it does approach that of the LRT. Example in Brazil, the Monorail capacity is approximately 40,000 PPHPD.

    1. @Grace

      Thanks for your comment. You are correct that the capacity of the line can be increased by improving the capacity of the trains (which they are going to do) and increase the headway of the line.

      However, the headway is limited by a number of factors, not just the number of trains. Other things to consider are the signalling system, train speed, dwell time at stations, and turnaround time at terminal stations.

      In other words, once capacity has been increased, there isn’t much that can be done to improve capacity beyond the 6,400 passengers per hour per direction that is being projected. If they are lucky, they might be able to increase capacity by 5-8% with operational improvements … but this is not very likely.
      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  3. Hi Moaz

    Not really. The 4-car monorail can carry 512 passengers @AW3. At 6400 PPHPD, you need 13 trains/hr which is approx 4.6 minutes headway.

    The Signalling system at KL Monorail can easily cater for 3 minutes headway which is 20 trains/hr which roughly translates to 10.2k PPHPD. You will need more trains of course.

    The entire KL Monorail system can easily cater for 2 minutes headway but the limiting factor of course is the driver. With the current expansion, the signalling system will be changed and it can be upgraded at a later stage (if capacity required) to a driverless system.

    1. Hi @Grace

      Perhaps you have different information than we do? The last source we had said that the maximum number of trains per hour that the signalling system & switch system at the terminal could handle was 16 trains per hour.

      As we said before, even if the signalling system is upgraded, the turnaround time would still be the limiting factor.

      On the other hand, if the monorail could be upgraded to a loop system (by building the other, western “half”, say through MidValley, Bangsar, Jalan Duta, and Sentul, then the switches could be eliminated as a limiting factor. Of course, this would be somewhat of an engineering challenge to redesign the monorail – but not impossible.

      In any case, we want to see the data from SPAD & Prasarana to justify the demand for the Monorail extension to Midvalley (which is the important destination) and beyond.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  4. Hi Moaz

    I do not see why the existing signalling system or switches cannot handle more trains per hour. The traverse time of the 2-point switch from one beam to the other is less than 12s. Factor in the dwell time, driver changing cabs, etc, you can do the maths. It was actually tested for <2.0 min headway in 2004 with minor operational changes.

    The existing system as it was built does not cater for any changes. It is of course possible to redesign but it will mean closing down the whole operation for more than a year.

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