The federal government is planning a RM40 million project to “upgrade” the historical Penang Hill funciular railway. See theSun’s report here.
What exactly does this entail? Few know for sure as there’s been a dearth of information on the scope of the work.
According to activist Ahmad Chik, his understanding is that the federally funded project would involve:
- RM40 million in federal funds;
- a 10-month complete shutdown. During this time, the residents around the present Middle Station would have no easy access up or down the hill, while hawkers and other traders would lose their source of income;
- the elimination of Middle Station; instead, there would be just a stop;
- the trains crossing somewhere around the middle of the hill;
- some realignment of the track route with about 80 per cent of the existing track still being used;
- a complete change in the machinery at the stations. (Ahmad feels that this is not necessary.)
- new coaches;
- possibly some environmental damage, perhaps resulting in some delays in project completion;
- a four-fold increase in capacity;
- a 10-fold increase in speed: it would take four minutes to get from the bottom to the top; that’s too fast, no chance to enjoy the scenery;
An alternative proposal put up by Ahmad and other Friends of Penang Hill would involve:
- only half the cost i.e. RM20 million;
- only 20 per cent of the time for the upgrading work (compared to the federal project);
- work being carried out on each half of the track at a time so that the other half would still remain open. This would mean residents near the Middle Station would not be completely cut off at any time;
- the Middle Station continuing operations;
- only a change of motors for the machinery (and not a complete replacement of all the machinery);
- use of the same coaches;
- no environmental damage;
- a three-fold increase in speed because of the bigger motors; therefore,
- a three-fold increase in capacity.
Of course, I prefer the alternative proposal. What about you?