Mumbai monorail first phase seen as ‘failure’ – so why monorail for Penang?


Why are the Penang government and SRS Consortium adamant about monorail when phase 1 of the Mumbai monorail has encountered all sorts of problems.

The Asian Age reports:

The Congress-NCP government had scrapped plans to have a monorail in the MMR [Mumbai Metropolitan Region], citing that the studies conducted in 2014 showed the corridor was not likely to be viable and would have low ridership. It had also taken into consideration the failure of the phase-1 monorail constructed between Wadala and Chembur. [emphasis mine]

The Economic Times reported last year:

A year after the much touted Mumbai Monorail was inaugurated in 2014 and Rs 1,208 crore was spent on the project, the state government has reached the brink, prompting it to call off any more Monorail projects in Maharashtra.

Why is this important? Because the the Penang state government and its project delivery partner SRS Consortium had cited the Mumbai monorail as an example of an operational monorail system in a response to 15 NGOs in Penang. See their slide:

SRS comparison monorail

But reports in the Indian media have highlighted cost overruns, delays in opening, poor ridership and technical glitches in the Mumbai monorail, which opened with great fanfare only two years ago. Incidentally, one of the Malaysian parties involved in the Mumbai monorail is Scomi Engineering.

Is it a problem of the company or the system? One report says:

Though MMRDA officials claim the ‘not so good’ financial condition of the Scomi Engineering (Malaysia) is the reason behind the delay in the opening of Wadala-Jacob Circle Monorail phase-II, transport experts flayed the very idea of introducing Monorail as public mode of transport stating that it had only a few takers.

The Scomi Rail website doesn’t seem to have been updated lately. Its most recent “latest highlights” is dated 13 December 2011.

The video report at the top explains “why Mumbai monorail experiment failed”.

It is all a far cry from two years ago when the same reporter soaked up the optimism and feel-good factor surrounding the Mumbai monorail:

Today, the monorail is losing 850,000 rupees a day and on 1 May, 56 monorail staff went on strike, citing salary delays.

Says the Times of India:

Over two years after India’s first monorail was launched in the city, it is increasingly being viewed as a symbol of bad planning and wasteful expenditure. Some urban transport experts even describe it as a vehicle for joyrides.

This is what Indian transport expert Jitendra Gupta said:

Nowhere in the world is Monorail used as a mass mode of transport. But in our country, it was introduced and implemented by making tall claims. In my view, MMRDA should have undertaken multiple feasibility studies before investing over R2,400 crore of public money [after major cost overruns from original figure of RM1,500 crore], which may have gone down the drain. MMRDA has been creating blunders with public money. Skywalks and the cycle track are the best examples. Metro project should be promoted, as it is one of the best modes of public transport. Number of firms building Monorail is negligible in comparison to those manufacturing Metro rail technology. So it is obvious that companies manufacturing outdated transport system are bound to be in a bad financial state. Technical glitches marring Monorail phase-1 (Chembur-Wadala) is enough to prove how inadequate the technology is, as it started developing issues within a year of becoming operational.

Read the full press report here: Mumbai Monorail – A mass transport system or massive financial blunder?

But what about the five monorail systems in Japan mentioned in the Penang government/SRS list?

Ask yourself why there have been no new monorail lines in Japan since 2003 ie for the last 13 years.  Those five lines in the list were opened in the period 1985-2003, when monorail was seen as something of a futuristic mode of transport. Japan has lots of other cities – what has stopped them from introducing monorail since 2003?

What the state government does not tell you is that seven monorail lines in Japan have been discontinued.

Our own KL Monorail had to be bailed out by the federal government after ridership failed to meet projections.

The Las Vegas monorail has been struggling after it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010. Ridership is now about 4.2m, down from a peak of 7.9 million in 2007.

In South America, the Sao Paolo monorail opened in 2014 at a cost of US$1.6bn (RM6.5bn) for a 24km stretch.  That works out to RM271m/km – well above the estimated monorail construction cost figure of RM170m/km which the Penang state government and SRS Consortium have told us.

Why is there no city in Europe in the list provided by the state government and SRS Consortium? That says a lot.

One city definitely not in the list is Sydney, which terminated its monorail system in 2013. “It was always more of a novelty rather than an actual transport purpose,” Gladys Berejiklian, Minister for Transport, was reported as saying. “That was one of the reasons why we discontinued it.”

“Not only does it give us an opportunity to redevelop this precinct and introduce light rail, it also discontinues a part of our transport network that never really fit in.”

So why are the Penang state government and SRS Consortium so adamant about embracing the discredited monorail, when the original Halcrow report (for which the state paid over RM3m) never recommended it and instead proposed bus rapid transit and trams?

Sure, we have had so-called top-down “public consultations” during which the SRS plan received “positive” response.

All this reminds me of this bit from an episode of The Simpsons when Springfield town held a town hall meeting during which a slick salesman popped up to sell the residents the idea of a monorail system:

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Can anyone explain why monorail failed in Melaka?

Ambeng Jair

Corruption. Procured poor sub-standard parts, no maintenance.

ah pek

Aging Penangites so go simple with affordable and easily accessed mini bus network complemented by tuk tuk feeder system to reach door steps.


pg tuk2 ~ trishaw?? perfect door to door service. orso many ah pek trishaw riders

gk ong

Tuk tuk can provide more personalised service to your doorstep, can weave easily along the congested and narrow roads of heritage zone.

james k

I think the issue should be Singapore having proper world-class public transport infrastructure while Penang does not. Yet. Yes Singapore does not have monorail, but they have a MRT system. MRT is catered for high passenger volume, which Penang does not have. (S’pore population: 5 million, Penang population: 1.6 million) So to emulate Singapore by having good public transport is not by copying them exactly to have MRT. We need to tailor it to our own setting and environment. We can’t have a MRT system as 1. We don’t have enough passenger volume to sustain it, and 2. It is… Read more »


CM Lim Guan Eng is not shy about taking a leaf — or more — from best practices around the world, including Singapore’s development playbook, since both share many similarities, including an economy in which electronics manufacturing and services play a big part. He is emulating Singapore’s public housing planning and has teamed up with Singapore’s Temasek Holdings to develop a RM1.3 billion (S$441.9 million) mixed-development project near its industrial zone. He is also an admirer of Singapore’s efforts in building up its capital of human talent and is currently doing the same with Penang’s workers. Besides eyeing Singapore, Penang… Read more »


Pg is a state only singland is a country. So whatever pg wants to do there is a limitation. Eg if tourism is spiking at a good rate but tax and gst from pg are divert to helicopter rides and buy election, how to expand and increase the facilities in pg airport? Changi, HK, guangzhou airport are building additional runways. With 2 more buy elections, $£¢€¥ are even more needed to buy elections. . As reported the owner of tm manggis has yet to get green light from central Gomen licence for a medical centre cum hotel but Aussies are… Read more »


So much to learn from Singapore.
I think LGE is careful not to upset the Malays with the collaboration with Singapore as TV3 has made Singapore a bogeyman in the malay’s psyche.


when mca, gelakan lost the election even with $¥£€ and gangnam throw in armno oredi upset. so like hans they throw german gas what else can they do? use sop ~ religion, sex and race.

Stylo Logan

Singapore is promoting car-free at its business district:

Angry Bird

Should emulate Singapore, not Mumbai.


mumbai in fact india very demo cracy but needs alot of gee in the hands. look the complains in new deli games.


Except that Penang has been sending its young talent to Singapore forever and tycoons keep their money in Singapore banks (not all go Panama or HK). Only retirees come back to buy the expensive condos. I think Singapore will not be too worried about Penang.


LGE’s Mission: In five years, the Penang Chief Minister wants to make the northern Malaysian state a world-class international city.
Read: Guan Eng lifts from Singapore playbook in ambitious bid to make Penang world class (VIDEO)
Note: This will help us understand LGE’s plan for Penang & what holds for Penangites in the future.


singland has no tram too


Let’s look at the whole picture of LGE’s Mission.
We may not agree in everything like the monorail contention.
What’s more important is the strategy, implementation & leadership to make the mission happen.
LGE should have shared his Mission so that every Penangite can fully understand state plans, implementations & policies. I am not saying we should agree (everything) but agree to disagree (something that’s not right).


LGE cannot share too much its development plan as Gerakan will copy it for its next GE manifesto.

ah pek

Cannot reveal too much of mission after copycat by gelakan.

Penangites like me no need to know too much of future plans, we just need to know pur short term welfare being carefully handled.

Monorail or even tram too sophisticated for people like us. Automated green tech rickshaws can be useful to us. I can be the rider to earn some heritage tourism money for daily dosge of kopi.


ah peks have discountd using trams snd lrts. no discount in mini buses or tuk tuk. tuk2 prices varies. sometimes u can get lucky like lge getting at discount price. empat sekawan. u know me and i know u. or like atmno pays more. no tenderimg.
but ah pek here very pandai. knows how to use computer but there is no senior citizen discount.


Singapore newspaper TODAY yesterday in front page calling Penang a future competitor to Singapore now with many infrastructure in place to move forward.


can anyone sure tramways are profitable? you want to depend on ah peks ah mas for riderships with senior citizen’s discount? one must convert mat rempits, yappies and working class to abandon cars and kapcai and trsms is pg icon.. you cannot convert them is like LA cars are like cowboys on horses yankee way of life.


There are a couple of other dud monorail systems in North America. You as why they are being implemented despite the poor record? The answer is the same as to why are these other systems being implemented despite massive losses and disasters: nuclear energy, amuminium plants, giant incinerators, more highways to resolve highway congestion, privatisation of everything in sight (even water)…

TL Man

Based on trends you seem to have some differences with dap. What isthe population of Bombay and what is the population of penang. If we depend on ridership all the time no city in the world will have mass transpot system. This is a service project and you have to put out a quality and rteliable project and then get more people toride it. You would do all of a service if youcould use the singapore experience to drive some direction here. For city transport tobe successful ithas to be intigrated and one card that can be used in all… Read more »


If monorail is unpalatable on a global scale, why still pursue it?
Pls lah, think out of the CAT Box.


If not monorail then what? The Penang government may have excluded underground MRT due to the unsuitability of the soil then make it a private initiative if you are so worried about the overdue project not making money. Try the Chinese they may be interested.


Halcrow is telling pg lang to pay brt for ah jib bus company to operate free of charge and reap the profit when $£¢€¥ is thrown in buy elections and funds are diverted to other states? Why not bus company pay for the brt if profits do not go back to pg lang? Pg lang wants to be radish heads?


The answer was there all the while – trams & BRT.
If the fervour of ‘cheap’ discount & below market price purchasing is the hallmark of a leadership, it spells hypocrite to pursue super-high-costs transport system. More like bending backward to developers’ arm-twisting nego just to get their swap-deal funding.


Poor ridership? Like in LA and KL. Monorail fail people or people fail monorail.


it’s the planning and implementation. Doesn’t mean if it fails in Mumbai, so it will fail in Penang

Raja Rajan

public rail transport profitble? Besides the few common exceptions, really?


Then discard it totally, simple & really.


Bring back Bas Mini.


Yes, penang is more suitable for bus mini la


The 6 discontinued in Japan look like theme park related small installations with no business case rather than any technical issue. The ones in Sunway and Melaka are cheap installations with no business case to succeed. Tokyo and Osaka seem to be better examples.

Glen Graham

Bring back rickshaws!!


has monorails failed in all countries? If not then your question does not make sense.

Will Barclay

But I like the face on the blue train! Like one Thomas the Tank Engine’s friends.