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]
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:
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:
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: