German transport engineer: Penang making ‘serious mistakes’ with elevated LRT

A monster elevated LRT station

German urban planner Alex Koenig warns that Penang is about to make “two serious professional mistakes” as it plunges headlong into SRS Consortium’s proposal for an RM8bn elevated LRT system from Penang airport in southern Penang Island to Komtar in the George Town city centre.

“I can’t remember any other city in the world doing such nonsense,” he says, of the plan to abruptly end the line in the city centre.

Alex, who was employed by Lahmeyer international, the biggest engineering consultancy firm in Germany, in the 1980s as a transport engineer, believes such mistakes will prove costly in the long-run.

Let’s hear what he has to say:

Previously I commented on the Penang transport masterplan’s elevated LRT and was not taken seriously.

I repeat two serious professional mistakes (are being made):

1. To get electricity supply by a third rail instead of overhead wires would mean that either this line can never be integrated into an LRT/tram system operating on ground level – or any future extensions to the LRT have to be all elevated (or tunnelled).

2. To terminate an LRT line in the city centre instead of building it through to the other side of the city is a serious planning mistake. I can’t remember any other city in the world doing such nonsense. Please help to get these things right before another costly mistake happens.

For Alex, who spent many years in Penang, this is not the first costly mistake the state has made:

When looking into mega projects the source of some difficulties should also not be forgotten. Penang Port Commission had commissioned a German port expert about the relocation of Penang Port to the mainland. I had read his report in the 1970s. The report proposed to locate the new container terminal to be built north of Butterworth in order to allow a short 4km causeway bridge to the island…

Such a causeway bridge could have accommodated a railway link and got expanded for additional traffic lanes similar to Singapore – and all the tunnels and world record bridges would not have been necessary. Who is responsible for that matter?

With the previous BN government having already made a colossal blunder with the location of the container terminal in the past, does the present state government really want to make another expensive mistake for future generations? It will make all those handbags look like petty cash purchases.

Meanwhile, an experienced transport consultant Rosli Khan has called for a review of the Penang transport masterplan:

In the case of Penang, the master plan for the state has not been fully endorsed nor approved by the federal authority. But at a cost of RM46 billion, it is rather expensive and there are calls to review it.

Perhaps, the time is right to undertake such a review while appreciating the fact that for long-term sustainability, Penang Island cannot and should not take in anymore vehicular traffic.

Therefore, the undersea tunnel is a bad strategy, unless it is purely meant as a form of public transport, a rail-based (LRT, tram) system only, but not road traffic.

Instead, some form of congestion charge should be formulated for Penang, the income of which should be used for public transport projects and improvement. Abolishing of tolls for the two bridges is out of the question for now, as it is too regressive.

Footnote: Gamuda, which has a 60% stake in SRS Consortium, is involved in both the KL-High Speed Rail project and the KL MRT3 project, both of which have been scrapped or put on the back-burner. Gamuda’s share price has taken a hit – and it will be even more reliant on the Penang transport proposals.


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Boo Soon Yew

I believe this is a myopic statement by an obviously experienced German Urban Planner who declares it is “doing such nonsense” if we take his points 1 & 2 together about Elevated LRT & a line ending in the city centre. If he is from the 1980s serving in Germany, then he will reminisce the old railway lines amidst lush flat plains of Deutschland. We DO NOT HAVE that luxury in Penang. Hence an Elevated LRT is the best way to go. As for the cabling for the electric supply, I believe present-day technology will know how to go about… Read more »


I concurred with your view. I think some people are just fond of doing the opposite in order to…erh, impress ?


Elevated transport is the future. This ensure transport is kept to the time schedule. If shared with buses, kapcais, bechahs, cars, the passenger load reduced. Only ah peks, ah mah, poor, migrant workers and those have no licence will take buses as they are like circus going round and round.

If this Penang Airport to Komtar line is the first phase, with plans to extend the line to Tanjung Bungah or Batu Feringghi later on, then this makes sense. Anyway, that area from Bayan Lepas to Komtar is a high-density urban area so I’m pretty sure that this stretch will be popular with commuters, especially those who commute from home to office and then office to home. I don’t find Koenig’s arguments about an electrified third rail not allowing for at-grade track to be relevant, since available land at ground level is scarce in Penang, as it is in the… Read more »


Don’t waste money on public transport, only wai lao will use, the local Penang people drive own cars or take Grab. Sad but true!


Imposed higher parking fees and fines. Implement area licencing is very difficult. Use existing tolls as a form of area licensing and add a few to force cars to pay. Money to plough back into buses and lrts. That is way state transporr should be revert back to state.

PolitiScheiss (a.k.a. IT.Scheiss)

That’s what my Singaporean cousin said about Singapore’s MRT before it was opened and when it began running back in the 1980s many Singaporeans used it. People can change when a mode of transport is faster, more affordable and is less hassle.


Why not learn from Singapore experience?

Tan Dau Chin

Wat is d difference between elevated and lets a underground line in cost n time duration? Which will be a better option? Besides these two what other option is available?


Eleveted is very very chip

PolitiScheiss (a.k.a. IT.Scheiss)

Agreed. Much cheaper construction poses less risk of damage to buildings above.

Xavier Manickam

We need LRT …Penang need Urgently pls

Xavier Manickam

Dont care what people say…penangites need urgently


any alternative?

Kee Teh

What is the solution then

Ah Hua

The best solution now haha, is pass a new mandatory law in Penang — everyone must cycle on the road at least once in a week or be barred from using the road !


Dont know how to cycle gomen provide training and but bicycle at lelong price?-


Need to tackle first the high car population on the road in Penang Island.


Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow is targeting for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project under Penang Transport Master Plan to begin during his tenure.

Chow said the LRT project would take a longer time to complete in Penang but he hoped to see the project commence within five years.


‘To terminate an LRT line in the city centre instead of building it through to the other side of the city is a serious planning mistake.’

To us layman, what is the implication that is considered a serious planning mistake?

Hulubalang 2017

@transitmy There was a study done on this sometime back…and LRT there would be feasible if it was a mi…


i agree with him…trams shud be better


Have you tried hk trams? They are blocked by cars and when they come, they come at the same time

Z. Aziz

It is about time that Penang start developing ferry services to support the present rapid buses. For a start ferry services can support pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. It is such a pity if we fail to utilise the water around penang island for public transportation.


Billions because calvin said that dummo wants to control it. Try to start a water taxi or ferry service in the past? No chance wo going through dummo. Calvin knows it


The idea of using fast ferries as alternative sea mode of transport was discussed in this blog some years ago, but did the state gomen just skip this as less ‘glamorous’ project? In fact, given a choice for one to travel from Balik Pulau to George Town by sea, he would have saved more than half of his road travel time, given if no traffic jams along the coastal highway from Bayan Lepas to city centre. A small fast ferry won’t need to wait for 30+ passengers to leave the terminal, so less hassle of waiting time prior to departure.… Read more »


Ah pek, u think getting a ferry licence from previous dummo central gomen like 123? U have to put plenty of ghee, butter and lard. Pg gomen has to go through gmuda as they have the french connection. See how we eat french fries and bought french submarines


The most probable answer for out of George Town areas is more dedicated buses – main route buses + feeder buses (free rides) + 5-10 minutes intervals + dedicated bus lanes. Integrated with trams within the city. Some more streets will have to turn into one-way streets to meet the needs above. I suggest Pg Rapid modify their buses to retrofit with bicycle carriage. This will allow those with bicycles (including foldable ones) to travel by bus (for long distances) + ride their bikes within their chosen destinations. The bike rentals can collaborate with Pg Rapid for bus ride +… Read more »

M Pillay

More buses. Penang government can deploy own fleet of mini buses to supplement RapidPenang to increase frequencies and punctuality.
Create natural (trees plants) sheltered paths to encourage more to walk out away from heat to the sheltered bus stands.


Bus licencing is under federal gomen. To operate bus, has to get approval from federal gomen. That is why dummos and cronies get all tgd $£€¥. Calvin knows why pg gomen insist to run transport projects. If under dummos, croniez will orso get finger licking goods

Siong Yee

Simplest solution is of course mini buses on Penang narrow roads, more frequency and no need to cut trees. However it is not glamorous to some people.


AYE , good suggestions.
I think 3rd.national car is not in the manifesto.
Proton is in good hands now with Geely management and Perodua is doing fine with Daihatsu guidance.
No need for another national car.
The idea is to stop private cars population.
Best to halt Mahathir before he starts to bring back perwaja as well.


Ah pek, what happen if 3 or more cyclists wanted the bus to carry the bicycle? Wasted 50 passengers time in trying to load and unload the bike. Who pays the damage to bikes if accident? Have all day, all week tickets unlimited travel for 5 and 25 ringgit. Tgdy are good for tourists and short term visitors. Sundays travel is limit to 3 ringgits. Then everyone will come out, Good for business.

Patrick Charles

If we have the station in will further worsen the traffic congestion. We also need to cater ample parking space which is out of the question..It is already a problem to get parking lots on any days around komtar..


Why need car parking if in komtar? Go melbourne all the train stns no parking but drop and pickups. Same as Syd and Brisbane. From komtar, free shuttle. In Auckland, train or bus card, allow free on city loop. Same in perth. CBD just hop in and out foc. Once out of CBD, no scan and will get fine if caught


Penang must have paradigm shift, and not centre their life around Komtar.

Siong Yee

Komtar is an old legacy, time to rebrand it by changing its name.

Benny Koay

Dear all, I also do not like the elevated LRT.

Kn Lam

Yeah? Then the KL LRT/MRT made serious mistakes.

Albert Khoo

KL LRT and Monorail are real serious mistakes but not for MRT.


But i & some of my friends uses the KLMonorail quite often. Many foreign and local tourist uses KLMonorail too especially the KLSentral > BukitBintang > Bukit Nanas route. A lot of hotels,banks,law firms,corporate offices and shopping malls here. Yes, it is a failure when we look at the company accounts book but public transport is not about raking profits. In China , i think there are only 3 routes that are profitable and the rest are running loses year after year. In KL, there is this GoKL (by prasarana)shutter buses which is a free service. They ply 4 routes.… Read more »


Nobody wants to talj about making passenger only ferries ala Hong Kong? Very efficient over there.

Zuwairi Md Yusof

what the option then still TRAM?

Mellissa Lee

Oh no, no to elevated LRT. Spoilt Penang skyline. Ps drop tis plan.


If not elevated, then where the carriage will run? Houses have to demolish to make way. How to cross the track? Ask the trams to stop, look left and right b4 crossing? if nany cars, trams stop for 10 mins or more. You still want to take trams if it takes very long to reach your destinations? if stop and go at traffic junctions, no one can tell time if arrival. Back to square one. Not know how long to arrive. If elevated, no one can stop the lrt and can tell how long ti travel from a to b


What skyline to worry when traffic jam with too many cars choking the road is an eyesore! Not to mention the air pollution!