Another company is proposing a solution for Penang’s transportation problems.
This time it’s the Aerobus, which glides on overhead tracks. Apparently the system is being proposed for areas outside the heritage zone in George Town.
The company behind it is Aerobus International Inc, through its local rep, Aerobus Malaysia.
The company which submitted the proposal is Pinggiran Pelanggi Sdn Bhd.
Its executive director (or is it executive chairman?) is Aripin Mokthar, who is also described in news reports as Aerobus Malaysia Marketing and Development director.
Before you jump and exclaim “Penang leads!”, Malacca announced in February a simliar RM1.8 billion Aerobus mass transit system. Apparently, it will take six years to complete. In Malacca, Pyramid Express will build, operate and manage the Aerorail system. Technical and project management support will come from Pinggiran Pelangi Sdn Bhd.
It would be interesting to find out how that project is faring in Malacca and how it is being financed. According The Edge report, it will apparently involve the construction of hotels at 10 of the stations. Land would be provided by the state (for how much and to whom?):
MELAKA: Little-known Pyramid Express Sdn Bhd is planning to build a RM1.8 billion Aerorail urban mass transit system in Melaka. In addition to the Aerorail system that would be completed in the next four years, the company is also planning to build a total of 10 hotels, all located at the stations along the track alignment of the Aerorail system.
“We are hoping to start construction in the next six months. We are currently seeking approvals from the relevant authorities,” said Pyramid Express managing director Datuk Lim Sue Beng.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of the first Aerorail Hotel and Station at Lebuh Ayer Keroh yesterday, Lim said that the state will provide the land while the company would fund and manage the project. Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony.
According to Malaysian Business, “Pyramid Express Managing Director Datuk Lim Sue Beng said his company has committed RM500 million to build 10 new station hotels. These hotels will be managed by Leisure Group Hotels & Resorts Sdn Bhd”. So how much are they paying for the land?
Does the Pinggiran Pelangi proposal for Penang involve the state providing land as well? Why do I ask? Because Aripin, in a Bernama report, was reported as saying the company would bear the full construction cost of the system under a financing scheme to be determined later without involving any cost by the state government.
To be determined later? Shouldn’t the financing scheme be a key component of such a major proposal?
Who is Aripin Mokhtar? According to the Annual Report 2007 of PJI Holdings Bhd, he is described as follows:
Aged 59, Malaysian, Dato’ Aripin was appointed as an Independent Non-Executive Director of PJI on 5 July 007. Prior to his appointment to the Board, he was the Group Executive Director of YTL Corporation Berhad (“YTL”) and he was responsible for the development of new business for YTL both domestically and regionally.
In 1999, he was an Executive Deputy Chairman of L&M Corporation Berhad and subsequently as Non-Independent and Non-Executive Director of Ho Hup Construction Berhad in year 004.
Currently, he is the Executive Chairman of Pinggiran Pelangi Sdn Bhd. He has 7 years of experience encompasses many aspects of development but has focused upon infrastructural development. He has considerable experience in business procurement mainly in construction and power generation sector.
He is currently a member of the Audit Committee, Nomination Committee and Remuneration Committee of PJI. He does not have any conflict of interest with the Company and has no conviction of any offence within the past ten years.
Transport commentator Moaz Yusuf Ahmad comments:
The Aerobus/Aerorail concept is not new to Malaysia. Aerobus was pitched to KL years ago before the financial crisis. Now the Aerobus design has been accepted in Malacca (though they call it Aerorail) and the company appears to be pitching it to Penang was well.
Aerobus/Aerorail is a gimmick technology that has yet to be proven. Why should the governments of Malacca and Penang be taking the risk on it? Why not invest in a real and effective and cheap public transport system that has actually been proven instead of a “bus-in-the-sky” dream?
It seems that the Penang government has moved from monorail to subway to aerorail. Up and down and up again. This is not the way to improve public transport.
The Aerorail technology may not be effective in Malaysia. Though it might be able to “glide over the streets” using a thin rail, this is a suspended system that is similar to a cable car. The support pylons will be massive, larger than a typical cable car.
Since the Aerobus/rail is suspended, one wonders if it will be able to operate in extreme Malaysian weather. What is the point of building a mass-transit system that might have to shut down during a typical Malaysian thunderstorm?
The Association for the Improvement of Mass-Transit-Klang Valley (Transit), calls on the government of Penang and Malacca to stop investing time and energy in gimmick technologies.
The best way to improve public transport is to invest in technology that is cheap and effective and proven – like buses, which have worked well throughout the world for generations.
Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
on behalf of TRANSIT