Buses in the sky? Improve buses on land first


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

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26 Jan 2009 10.53pm

Sad I did not see this post when it went up. I’ve never been to Penang, but nobody who has ever experienced KL traffic can forget that! If its possible to get a clear lane with physical barriers keeping cars out, Bus Rapid Transit can work well in Malaysia, like its worked in Brasil. But for crossing water, light rail track laid on high tension suspension cable is cheaper than building a bridge. That’s why they are building a deluxe Aerobus system in Weihai … to get from the mainland to the island. But its a small US technology company… Read more »

15 Nov 2008 2.05pm

Penang should have a train / rail transit system connect to the mainland (Seberang Jaya). I will recommend that to be built together with the second link / bridge. That will eliminate some vehicle to use the bridge and allow more people to take public transport. The main thing is connectivity, a good transportation system should allow more alternatives for public. The public could take private car, taxi, bus, or train to the mainland or vice versa, therefore, that will mitigate the road traffic problem. For Penang island, various transportation could be introduced, such as bus, taxi, tram, private car.… Read more »

13 Nov 2008 7.13am

kasi tambah itu feri dulu la…

Megat Jittendran
Megat Jittendran
13 Nov 2008 12.15am

As expected, Anil, like all those who drive cars around freely and selfishly everywhere, while enthusiastically advocating public transport, has opposed the aerobus project instantly.
Penang Boleh! Anil! Bloggers semua boleh! Sebab they have no other work to do, except to find faults by all ways and means.
But put them on the job, they will screw up the whole government machinery until the last screw.


12 Nov 2008 6.14pm

i can understand why the Penang government is looking at alternative modes of transport. In everything we do, it boils down to cost. Money is the only thing that makes our world run. I love to have good underground MRTs like Singapore and HK (not the lousy ex-PUTRALine in KL), but any good engineer would tell you that it costs A LOT to tunnel in and viaduct out. Malaysia simply does not have the kind of money that Singapore and HK have. I believe both governments subsidised their rails to get it going in the first place. As Penang wants… Read more »

dark horse
dark horse
12 Nov 2008 4.14pm

Dont get too excited on this aerobus project. This is my advice to Penang State government. Aerobus is not used in other countries, even in developed ones as a public transporatation system. The most proven is still mrt or in the case of penang, I think the most suitable, practical and cheaper system is the rail car. Penang government has to consider very seriously on this system in addition to an improved bus service. If the rail car is used and with good bus feeder systems, I am sure many penangites will leave their cars in the house and using… Read more »

12 Nov 2008 4.10pm

If you look at the players, Lim Sue Beng is from Gula Perak Bhd, which owns the Dynasty Hotel along Jln Ipoh KL. Company has defaulted on its bonds ( see bursa KL announcement)before.
As for Mokhtar Aripin, he is a well connected guy, thats why YTL engaged him before. He was also at L&M, which was previously controlled by Syed Mokhtar before it was auctioned off by Danaharta and now is named Prinsiptek Bhd.
He is obviously close to the Umno politicians and is known to be able to “secure” construction contract. PJI is also a contractor.

We Cares
We Cares
12 Nov 2008 3.34pm

Let Aerobus Malaysia built it for free.

Penang State Government pay zero costs.

Let’s give Penang PR Government a chance to build Aerobus to improve private urban transport in Penang.

If BN Federal Government build it, do you think it will build it free of charge ?

tan, tanjong bungah
tan, tanjong bungah
12 Nov 2008 3.10pm

Hi everyone,

A correction in the previous comment:
“For this latest proposed aerobus project, practise the CAT system, with open dialogues with the public and NGOs – the public should readily ACCEPT THE PROJECT if found feasible after studying it in-depth and of course, implement it quickly then.”

tan, tanjong bungah
tan, tanjong bungah
12 Nov 2008 3.03pm

Hi everyone,

Penang’s transport woes should be solved using a multi-prong approach. Yes, improve the land base bus system, but at the same time, examine the viability of the aerobus system as well!

For this latest proposed aerobus project, practise the CAT system, with open dialogues with the public and NGOs – the public should readily reject if found feasible after studying it in-depth and of course, implement it quickly then.

12 Nov 2008 2.49pm

Why is everyone, be they from BN or Pakatan Rakyat, talking about trams, monorails, aerorails, aerobus projects when they just have to add on more buses, more drivers and run the routes regularly and on time? What the hell are all these government people doing?

12 Nov 2008 2.26pm

Penang needs a LRT system!!! learn it from singapore!!! it can make penang self-sustainable in transportation!!!

12 Nov 2008 1.43pm

Ha, ha,.. any one has the experience in riding the Transit KL, would rated it thumb downed if compare it to the MRT in Hong Kong and the subway that is in Singapore.. i would not forget the experiences of ‘the rains and sun shines’ in riding the mono rail and KL Transit when come to transit in KL, let alone the break down frequency experiences… not any more in Penang, please…. I wonder what’s wrong when the PG goverment accepted various proposal from difference companies and invited the public to discussion ‘Before’the project is started, that we called open… Read more »

12 Nov 2008 1.00pm

its success depends on the network and capacity planning, as well as park and ride facilities. an off road system will have better schedule predictability and will be a key selling point. my support goes to the aerobus/lrt/mrt over improvement of bus service which is clearly hampered by the bad road system and the cvlb bureaucracy. let the busses provide feeder service within a small locality.

12 Nov 2008 12.01pm

if this things gets done (approved, well-planned, etc..), let’s make sure this will be disable friendly

12 Nov 2008 11.50am

trams in the inner city and aerobus out of the inner city?

sounds good to me. i would definitely love to travel in the sky. But yeah, we definitely need to look at what it’s gonna cost us either economically or not cuz things don’t really come free..

I’m up for sustainable and efficient public transport and proper study and planning.


Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
12 Nov 2008 11.34am

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… Read more »

12 Nov 2008 11.09am

i’ve always like the idea of having such people-only transportation medium. and the fact that mahathir and koh tsu koon mooted the idea last decade has further emphasis the relevance of that kind of system. this’s gonna be interesting. while melaka and penang will in the future have their own and separated systems, from what anil wrote the two will be conducted by two separate companies. which is not usual last time. it may or may not work, but lets hope both will benefit all of us. i am predicting that the system will be more useful in penang rather… Read more »

12 Nov 2008 10.59am

That is absolutely right. The financing side has to be made clear, as this would reflect on the charges to users of the system. We would not want another compensation package built into the contract if the company cannot charge a high fee or even fails to break even. Let them sink or swim. Given that he has the backing of YTL (sucking our money through the spineless TNB and c…. cabinet) maybe he has the resources. The tie up with Resorts signal the same. The state government should not be alienating land, just a lease would be enough. We… Read more »

12 Nov 2008 10.56am

ha ha. Build in Penang with no cost, build in Melaka nef 1.8 b, that make sense…like the wireless in Pg is free of charge, and DPM awarded the contract to build wireless system to Tekekom need 13 billiom..oh ,my. I did pay too muci tax money le…i only need to pay Digi monthly Rm 66 for Unlimited and get on-line every where…

12 Nov 2008 10.32am

I hope there will be a forum – debate on who will get the contracts .. I like the AEROBUS concept and based on the advantages is far more better than building a MRT/LRT , the fare will be more cheaper , check it out http://www.aerobus.com/advantages.html

.. and the most important is the cost is bear by the AEROBUS .. but we need to see the T&C of that contract ..