Penang streets too narrow for trams?


For those who think the streets of George Town are too narrow for trams, what do you make of this?

A tram in Lisbon - Photograph courtesy of Ric Francis
A tram in Lisbon – Photograph courtesy of Ric Francis

That’s a photograph last week of a tram running in Lisbon, Portugal.

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Ong Eu Soon

The cheapest tram system ever constructed is at a cost of $35 million a mile.( With the kind of budget and the narrow street of Penang, tram is not a cost effective and efficient transit that we can afford to build. Stop dreaming about Tram.


Trams are extensively found in east European countries, a legacy of the central planning economy of the Warsaw Pact era. They were originally built to provide cheap and affordable public transport to the masses. The arguments for trams are: i. They don’t pollute and are cheap to operate. ii. They move on tracks which make their paths fixed. This is important as those trams have to negotiate through historic narrow streets and lanes. iii. The managers can put in additional trams during peak hours and reduce them during low period. iv. Trams have priority over cars, especially so at traffic… Read more »


Tram systems in Europe cities are largely legacy systems, a few older than 100 years before there were cars. The Spanish also build one in old Manila in the early 20th century. Originally these systems were profitable because since cars came after they were invented, urban planning was done to take into account so cars never went into these old urban quarters e.g. they put the commercial centres away from these places so fewer cars. Since they started to built the subway system in Lisbon, as with everywhere else, the ridership of these trams have decline year after year such… Read more »


All we need is to just start with one track.


Cheers Kopi-O kau kau. Who knows what the multiplier effect it will have on inner city George Town. Ric, our tram sifu can help in the proposal. Never try, never know.


I think you are missing the point, the photo was to show that the tram can go in any street , The rubbish been stated ,need to look at great cities in Europe and in Australia working well with both tram & LRT You are missing the point Buses cause polution look at the slow decay of building in Georgetown. Fumes from buses are the problem Greening is what most people want these days.


“Buses cause polution look at the slow decay of building in Georgetown”. All the more for greening the inner city. If space is a constraint, go vertical greening (a gardening practice of planting on vertical walls/spaces). It will absorb the acidic carbon dioxide / monoxide & also provide more cooling oxygen in an already hot climate. Tram is the appropriate answer to Penang inner city streets to serve both the locals & tourists. Of course double parking in small lanes has to go. BRT can complement running along wider roads like Weld Quay or Jelutong Expressway supported by transit point… Read more »


Good calcs but very bad assumptions. For 200 units of Auto Tram, it will spread very thinly over Penang. Vehicles do not travel ONE Way. With one down and th other up, public have to wait at least 0.5 hours interval for the next auto tram to come. What happen during off peak for Auto Trams running in Penang? It will call Ghost Trams of Penang.

Ong Eu Soon

Plus the existing raping penang buses and the other 200 promised by the federal government, it is better than nothing especially the unnecessary removal of old trees and the scandalous 13km road widening precedent which will open the gate for future abuses.

Ong Eu Soon

Sorry wrong calculation, just the scandalous RM70million, we can buy 20 units of AutoTram. With the scandalous RM780million road widening budget we can buy more than 200 units of AutoTram. You will more than enough AutoTram to serve both the island and the mainland.

Ong Eu Soon

If we use the scandalous RM70million tree removal budget on Green Lane to buy the AutoTram. We can afford to buy 70,000,000/(1,250,000*3)=2 units of the AutoTram. If we use the scandalous RM780million 13km road widening budget, we can easily buy 20 units of AutoTram and let it run on the island. If we use 4 of the AutoTram to run on Penang Bridge. Another 4 to run on The FTZ, another 4 to run for certain industrial zones on the island, we can use the remaining 8 for the coastal road from telok Bahang to Queensbay aHitam. We need to… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

ignore this comment wrong calculation

Ong Eu Soon

More on Autotram from the daily mail of UK. It is developed by the boffins of the Fraunhofer Institute for Traffic and Infrastructure Systems, the bus is nearly 101 feet long, has four steering axles and can carry 256 passengers. The big bendy bus premiered in the eastern city of Dresden on Sept 2012 where it will soon roll into service with the local transportation authority on trial runs as Beijing and Shanghai placed their orders for the vehicle which costs $1.25 million per bus. ‘The innovation of the AutoTram lies not only in its length, but most of all… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

There is a new type of vehicle which is a dual mode trambus. A trambus can run on tram or train tracks and is also capable of driving on the road. It has the transportation capacity of a train and the versatility of a bus.The multi-unit vehicle with rubber tires is more than 30 meters long and has a capacity of 256 passengers. Autotram is one of the leading trambus manufacturer. This type of dual mode vehicle is most suitable to compliment Bus Rapid Transit. Due to the advantages of the vehicle concept a wide range of applications in different… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

If you want a tram be prepared to close the road for other mode of vehicles. If you are not prepare to do so, please forget about it.In certain parts of Europe, trams are the preferred vehicle because the roads are closed for other mode vehicle most of the time especially during peak hour. Big cities in Europe tend to have trams because of the huge number of pedestrians with very limited vehicle on the roads. Are we reaching a stage where the people preferred public transit other than private vehicle? You can implement tram along Beach street, but are… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

Tram can only operate on a very wide road or only at a very narrow back lane, not on a street which is too busy with other vehicles and not wide enough to cater for this type of slow moving vehicle. Be real! No tram on Penang island. Stop your day dreaming!!

Ong Eu Soon

According to wikipedia, the following is the disadvantages of tram: Disadvantages 1) Tram infrastructure (such as island platforms) occupies urban space at ground-level, sometimes to the exclusion of other users. 2) The capital cost is higher than for buses, even though a tramcar usually has a much longer lifetime than a bus. 3) One study concluded that it would cost less to buy new fuel efficient cars for the low income riders of light rail who do not have cars than it does to subsidize light rail.[49] However, others assert the study was “poorly researched and analytically deficient”[50] or otherwise… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

Excerpt from wikipedia on tram:
All transit services, except personal rapid transit, involve a trade-off between speed and frequency of stops. Services that stop frequently have a lower overall speed, and are therefore less attractive for longer trips. Metros, light rail, monorail, and bus rapid transit are all forms of rapid transit, which generally signifies high speed and widely spaced stops. Trams are often used as a form of local transit, making frequent stops. Thus, the most meaningful comparison of advantages and disadvantages is with other forms of local transit, primarily the local bus.

Ong Eu Soon

Tram is a slow moving vehicle for pedestrians. It can only be build at back lane not on the main street without causing traffic congestion. What you see is a back lane tram not one on the main road. Do you expect to have a slow moving tram to run on the main arteries without causing problem? Please use your brain and open your eyes widely before jump into conclusion. Tram is characterize by it’s slow speed allowing pedestrian to jump on it or to alight from it without stopping. Trams are generally open, low-speed segmented vehicles on rubber tires,… Read more »


Penang is a tourist public transport. Who goes to Penang Hill for work or to meet someone for business appoint. If public transport is slow, then the public will prefer to use cars or even kap chais. Imagine, they have to wait up extra hour early to go to work or come home late. Or like in Bangkok, they spend more time in the vehicles. That is why in many public transport, they have X buses but not X trams.

The Penquin

Penang is not a big island. Look at Hong Kong…..It has one of the world’s most efficient public transport facilities in the world. Is there any real planning going on ? Politics can wait.


Hong Kong has no problems because the trams have their own lanes except at the traffic junctions where the vehicles have to encroach into the tram’s lanes to turn right. Trams can be good for tourists, short distances, senior citizens or those not in the hurry. Trams in HK Island is very slow. From Western District to the Eastern Part, it takes more than an hour. That is why trams or light rail in New Terrority suck as Long to Tuen Mun is very different. They do not share the lanes with any one or vehicles. They travel at faster… Read more »


Cheers Kopi-O kau kau. Not all public transport has to be Speedy Gonzales like the one at Penang Hill Railway.


Hong Kong has no problems too! If there’s a will, there’s a way – just avoid the very narrow streets. No one suggests the narrow streets of Stewart Lane or Acheen Street!


Commentators who are against trams in Penang are either: a) ignorant; or b) prejudiced against good public transport.


This looks more congenial to old world charm Penang heritage enclaves. If speed is not an issue, a slow ride to take in the scenic & nostalgic inner city plus the unique lifestyle of multiculturalism will spell wonders of unforgettable impressions to the naked eyes of gawking tourists. Imagine seeing a Tan Tong Tong (an Indian) strumming his Yue Qin (Chinese moon guitar) and singing fortune with popular Hokkien ballads in the cool evening night at a street corner. Or salivating at Indian kueh-kueh with Laksa soup served hot & spicy from India bicycles. Or passing thro’ Canon Square’s festival… Read more »


I can only assume that Lisbon has much less vehicles on their streets. Trams can definitely be built on narrow streets but they cannot be competing with cars and motorcycles and trishaws on a narrow street. Trams in Pg will likely displace traffic. I am all for replacing cars with trams in the city but the problem is we cannot be having both on the same road at the same time. Can we encourage Penangites to leave their cars at home and use the tram for travel around the city? Many will say yes because an efficient tram service will… Read more »


Expert & Public consultations are important for future tram design/maintenance issues so that Penang Hill train breakdown will not happen to tram project.