China is embracing light rail in a big way. Check out this report here.
Step forward light rail systems, the construction costs of which are 20-30% of a metro, with a similar wave of construction and development now underway across China.
At the end of 2014, eight Chinese cities operated light rail networks, with a cumulative distance of 192.6km, and several cities are on course to open their first lines in 2015. Plans are now in place to develop more than 2000km of lines by 2020 and up to 4000km of lines by 2050. But with 319km of light rail infrastructure currently under construction, and 1835km already in the design phase, this number is likely to be out of date very soon.
It is important to realise that modern trams may be built at street level, but they can also have dedicated lanes and be elevated over difficult or congested stretches. This is what the original transport masterplan consultants Halcrow (to whom the Penang state government paid over RM3m) recommended for the 17.4km route from the Penang airport to Weld Quay route – dedicated lane at street-level, elevated along certain stretches and then shared roads when entering George Town. The cost RM40-80m/km – or just over RM1bn.
Enter the Gamuda-led SRS Consortium, which promptly discarded the trams (apart from a short route in George Town), and instead proposed elevated LRT for the 24km route from Komtar to the Penang airport area (RM220m/km (excluding land acquisition costs) or RM6.2bn (including land acquisition costs) and monorail routes (RM170m/km) elsewhere – on top of a RM6bn north-south highway on the island. That’s before any cost overruns.
As a comparison, check out the cost of these trams/light rail systems in China.
Cheaper, right? One of the reasons given by the state government for still choosing the more expensive elevated LRT is that Penang drivers have bad driving habits and roads here are congested. You mean to say drivers in China have been driving habits and there is less congestion in cities in China?
Anyway, once they realised that trams are way cheaper, the elevated LRT proponents then cleverly argued that relocating utility lines and carrying out soil tests would raise the cost of trams in Penang from RM40m/km (their initial figure) to more than RM220m/km. You mean to say you wouldn’t have to relocate utility lines and carry out soil tests when constructing elevated LRT and monorail?
You mean to say places like Taiwan and Rio do not have utility lines?
As for soil tests … look, they have built trams in Doha, Dubai and Casablanca in Morocco, which have a lot of desert land.
So why are we opting for expensive elevated LRT and expensive obsolete monorail?
Don’t think that trams are old-fashioned. Look at the future of modern trams. A few examples below: