The recent flurry of comments in the press following an incident that temporarily knocked out the Penang Hill railway has prompted its operations manager, Ahmad Chik, to respond.
As the Operations Manager of the Penang Hill funicular railway, I have noted with dismay misleading press comments made by some politicians following the much publicised breakdown on 3 May. I feel that in my position, I am obliged to put the record straight.
Before condemning the present operators, it is important to know the difficult circumstances under which the project was handed over to the PHC. Among them were
- the inordinate delay in delivering operating manuals, just about 15 days before the actual handover,
- the failure to supply a list of essential spare parts and
- insufficient spare parts handed over when we took possession
It is standard practice for major engineering projects for the operating manuals and the list of essential spare parts to be given to the operator well in advance and to give at least six months’ spares. On account of these circumstances, PHC was handicapped from the beginning and the staff had to work doubly hard over the five weeks they were given to prepare to open the train services to the public.
The actual breakdown caused by a collision between a stray dog and an exposed part of the undercarriage raises the question of a serious design flaw, a matter on which the operators had no part. Only the lack of spare parts, which should have been on hand but were not, had caused the delays in resuming the service.
Finally, a word must be said about the competence of the staff. All the staff sent for training in Switzerland are presently employed by PHC except for one engineer whom the interview board rejected. As for my appointment as Operations Manager, some comments have suggested that I was merely given the position due to the support of NGOs. I have to put on record that I am also a qualified engineer with almost 50 years experience and have accepted this temporary position without salary as my contribution to the state.
Ir Ahmad Chik, B Sc, PE, MIEM is Operations Manager of PHC Penang.
We need to have clear answers as to why the operating manuals were delivered so late, why there was no list of essential spare parts and why actual spare parts are insufficient.
Ahmad raises the question of a “serious design flaw”. This has to be looked into.
In particular, the inability to evacuate passengers should the train break down in the tunnel is definitely worrying.