Confusion over Batu Kawan monorail test track


MRails International Sdn Bhd states on its website that the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) has “authorised our consortium to implement a monorail test track for 1.3km in Batu Kawan (near Stadium), Penang”.

The Edge weekly had reported in October that the state had in principle given the green light to businessman Jeyakumar Varathan, believed to be a director of MRails, to build a monorail test track on a 30-acre site in Batu Kawan. Discussions between the Penang government and Jeyakumar reportedly began three months ago.

But confusing statements have been made in the media by various state government leaders.

On 30 Nov, Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy revealed, as reported in The Edge and elsewhere:

  • The state government had given the nod for two companies to each build 1-km monorail test tracks in Batu Kawan or Nibong Tebal to be completed within a year.
  • No tender had been called; the two companies had instead submitted proposals on their own.
  • The state is not forking out money; only allowing the firms to build a monorail test track on state land; the firms would bear the full cost.
  • State land won’t be sold to the firms.
  • No detailed discussions, BUT a “no-0bligation letter” has been issued to MRails by the PDC.
  • The test track is for the public to see for themselves and also for the state government to ascertain if the firms are capable of carrying out the monorail project.
  • But the state government is under no obligation to appoint them for any monorail project; if the project goes ahead, they have to submit bids by competitive tender.
  • The possibility of the firms setting up plants to start production for the test tracks and other monorail components for the export market has not been ruled out.
  • The companies would be asked to dismantle the tracks and vacate the land if the state later felt that the project was unsuitable.

On 3 December, public works, utilities and transport committee chairman Lim Hock Seng said in the State Assembly, as reported in The Edge:

  • MRails had asked for a 30-40 acre site to set up a factory to assemble monorail cabs.
  • Land sale would not be made on a tender basis, but based on the application received.
  • MRails plans to manufacture the cabs in China and these would later be assembled at the site on the mainland.
  • The test track would be built to test the assembled cabs.
  • It would be a monorail cab assembly and test track for interested buyers from abroad – not for the Penang monorail project.
  • Application for the factory site is in the enquiry stage, no application form has been filled and PDC has not yet made any decisions on the project (but “no-obligation letter” already given for test track!)
  • No plans for monorail system in George Town, but it may be considered for the outskirts of the city, especially in Bayan Lepas or other suburban areas, though nothing at the moment.

Ramasamy further clarified in an Edge report on 9 December:

  • Those interested would only be given PDC land for a narrow 1-km strip of land for a test track.
  • The sale or allocation of more land for a factory or assembly plant for tracks or cabs is not part of the deal – for now.
  • The track would be on PDC land that was presently unusable.
  • It was possible the state government would seriously consider the monorail idea if it was viable for Penang  –  but that would take time because of high costs involved.
  • Discussions ongoing with other interested parties.

Notice the operative words “for now”…

If you are confused by now, join the club! So am I.

Some questions arise from all this:

No application for a factory or assembly plant has been received – so what’s the test track for then?

Why has there been so much attention by senior state politicians and the media on a silly one-kilometre test track – if that is all it is – when there are so many other more urgent matters to attend to? Is there more than meets the eye here?

Only MRails has been mentioned. Which is the other firm? The reality is that there is no tender so far for a monorail system. But then there is the “no-obligation letter” (subject to securing all regulatory approvals) – which MRails is now touting as “authorisation” – to set up a test track. By setting up a test track, it would acquire knowledge of local conditions and get to know local officials – and that would give it a distinct advantage if and when the Penang state government has an open tender for a monorail system.

In any case, why monorail? The first step should be to get an experienced independent consultant, with no links to any infrastructure vendor, first to come up with a sustainable transport master-plan for the whole state. New transport infrastructure should be in accordance with the plan; it should not be vendor-driven.

And why MRails? Take a look at the firm’s work in South Africa, Angola, Sri Lanka, India (Chennai) and Indonesia on its website and see how many projects it has actually completed and commissioned. Has it actually seen through a monorail system before? How did it receive authorisation for a test track so soon after the discussions first began? Shouldn’t there be an open tender for the unused PDC land?

It is believed that Jeyakumar Varathan of MRails and another businessman, R Arunasalam of RA Group/Janar Textiles Sdn Bhd (better known locally as “Dato’ RA”), attended a couple of meetings to discuss monorails with the state government recently. In what capacity did Arunasalam, known to be very close to certain Pakatan politicians in the state, attend these monorail discussions?

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peoples voice
peoples voice
16 Jan 2010 2.04pm

i think the monorail is good idea.
Dont give bad comment,let pakatan to do their best and stop nagging PR

18 Dec 2009 2.57pm

Hm…… I think Penang people are really have to be pleased. Everybody complaints that the state government is not doing any good for them, and when the state looks into new alternate public transport, the people take it as some fishy thing is happening. So what should the state government do? Just hand out hard cash to everyone? Elo, this way of course all will be happy, but your gold mountain will also go flat one day la! Let them do the test run and see what happens la, if they screw up, then throw them out from their sit.… Read more »

17 Dec 2009 8.45pm Mengapa Melewar sudah siapkan syarikat untuk monorail pulau pinang? Adakah melewar terlibat dengan Dato JK? Dah lama kami dengar cerita yang Kerajaan PP telah bincang projek dengan Melewar melalui seorang bekas insuran MAA dan tiba tiba Dato JK muncul.

12 Dec 2009 6.01pm


Lim Guan Eng Government has been taking us for a ride since coming into power..

Now they want us to take the Monorail ride..!!!


12 Dec 2009 7.56pm
Reply to  lineclear

It is good that the PR Governments can continue to offer free rides and in the process enriching the State’s coffer.

Rather than not offering you anything and depleting the State’s coffer. The savings from mismanagement of funds which are so rampant in BN led Governments had resulted in the continued decline of Malaysia as a state and country.

12 Dec 2009 10.58am

Why don’t the Penang government ask the monorail manufacturer to sponsor for the project and all cost be borne by the manufacturer??

12 Dec 2009 10.01am


How about another eye and some reporting on the 100 year old houses/village in Sentul where there are many Indians working for KTM? Arent they like Kg Puah?

11 Dec 2009 3.44pm

Hi Anil,

Have these tracks already been build? Probably you can go for a site visit and take some photos. 🙂

13 Dec 2009 10.05am
Reply to  Anil Netto

If we think Kg Puah is Indian issues, then we should be very happy that LGE is helping INDIANS and allowing them to test drive the monorails. Or may NGOs or Gerakan/UMNO Government give them a place to go so

11 Dec 2009 11.25am

To suggest that the country nor the state gets nothing from this agreement is to deny that the country needs investors and entrepreneurs to create jobs for all Malaysians.

You may already have a lot of money in the bank but please stop behaving maliciously to impose your standard to every Ahmad, Ah Chong and Bala in this country unless you are willing to share your wealth unconditionally with them.

Angela Ooi
Angela Ooi
11 Dec 2009 5.03am

If anyone has a gripe with the terms and conditons for this monorail project, they should really go through Art Harun’s take on PLUS H’WY and how the BN/UMNO gomen screwed us ‘up, down and around’. Please go read his article, as it would guarantee to get your blood on a hot boil and then do ALL you can to unseat BN. Anil, please get going and do an article on the Plus h’way terms in comparison with this.

13 Dec 2009 12.24pm
Reply to  Angela Ooi

Angela, it is not about how bad the other side is to justify whatever that MAY be wrong with the present PR governments in the various states.

Anil had revealed some conflicting statements and had expressed his concerns and reservations.

If PR is as transparent and aboveboard as umno/BN then there should be more forthcoming in revealing information that would have allayed the concerns and fears of the rakyat. It is a sign of healthy democracy. A wrong that is mitigated in comparison with another wrong still does not make it right.

Dalbinder Singh Gill
Dalbinder Singh Gill
10 Dec 2009 8.57pm

They should investigate! Its hard to relocate kampungs but its easy to build monorail test tracks. I wonder what they wanna test when they whole states transportation system is in chaos. But as I know, it was clarified in the Penang State Assembly that this company is setting up this test track for projects else where and not in Penang, long term? UMNO was also upset as since losing Penang, they are broke, they cant earn commision from this “Scandal”. How to trust Ramasamy? He (seems) only interested in having an Indian Deputy Prime Minister. … Not even performing well… Read more »

11 Dec 2009 10.18am

Don’t know why you are so negative. PR may not be perfect but they are our best bet and definitely not equal in the worst sense to BN. You know, this is only the first step, i.e. to get in a new Gormen through the next GE(13), thereafter there is a lot of work to do. We have to push PR to make the changes in the system, hopefully if they win in GE13 and then dismantle the other socially ingrained monopolies and racialism such as the Malaysian Chinese economy, cronyfication of power, vilification of particular races or professions etc,… Read more »

10 Dec 2009 6.19pm

Habib Rak and Wira has a valid point BUT there must be some arrangement to fall back on in the event…..!!!

Penang needs the investment and if the Gormen shows some flexibilty backed by accountability, we should give them the benefit of knowing what is best for the state.

Agree WIRA and Habib Rak

Gerakan K
Gerakan K
10 Dec 2009 6.10pm

Dubious and bias!

Bias comment from PR apologists. Dubious incentive for private business. The state officially get nothing from this deal but allow private business to use state land.

The state officially get nothing but give something. I hope there are no corruption and power abuse involved here unofficially.

Why the state government is so good to private business?

11 Dec 2009 10.15pm
Reply to  Gerakan K

GK — Check and read the article properly, you block head

12 Dec 2009 12.40pm
Reply to  Gerakan K

Negative! Negative! Whatever the State Government does is always not correct with this sick man!

Perhaps, it does not enlarge his bank balance! LOL.

For goodness sake, do not make a fool of yourself and please refrain from commenting in this forum unless you are well versed with the matter or if you totally comprehend the gist of the article. Please for goodness sake, do not make a fool of yourself!

Habib RAK
Habib RAK
10 Dec 2009 3.44pm

Anil, the approach taken here is what we call a proof of concept approach. The investor is prepared to take some risk to proof the concept. The State is giving access to land to allow the investor to proof it. It just an approach which, if it works, will be done on a win win basis. Lets not get too carried away with “proper” process that we miss the objective.

10 Dec 2009 1.56pm

Well Anil.
If I have the money to set up a factory in this country, I go around scouting for incentives.
If Penang doesn’t give me what I want, I go to Perak or even to China.
Maybe they will give me better incentives.

There is no hard and fast rule about this and I’ll be stupid not to extract something from the government if I were to put my money here to create employment and business.

I don’t think we should complain if things are above board. 🙂

10 Dec 2009 1.06pm

I dont really see an issue here for now! Lending area to test their rail at their cost seems okay but the Gormen should take some form of financial guranttee which can be invoked in any event such as the failure of the company to clear the land as and when the gormen wants it back. Remember the tennis court issue, what was the final outcome, if I am not wrong it is in the courts??? Why should this be? But quite fuzzy, maybe the right thing to do will be for the state gormen to issue a clarification, a… Read more »

10 Dec 2009 11.48am

After going through the article, it is easy to understand that at least one company called MRails wants to set up a factory in Penang mainland making monorail cabins meant for export and the owners have requested the state to allow them the use of an strip of unused public land to build a track to test their product. If the test track is allowed, the company will be applying to PDC to buy a piece of land for the factory. Looks pretty standard to me for a firm which wants to establish a factory site. Of course it looks… Read more »

10 Dec 2009 11.34am

Datuk R Arunsalam is pretty diversified in his businesses. He is a Penang based, and these would be the list of companies:
a) Janar Textiles Sdn Bhd
b) Asia Pacific Events Promotion Sdn Bhd
c) KLE Higher Education Sdn Bhd
d) Rasa Sayang Marketing (South Afica) Pty Ltd
e) Azurro Investments Limited

Several years ago, I did meet Datuk RA once at the airport when I was coming back from Chicago. The above is what was on his Business card.