Here are a few images you may not have seen. These photos, taken about a week ago by a concerned Penangite, give us an idea of the extent of the problems facing the Penang Hills Railway, which was knocked out following the rainstorm on 4-5 November.
(Incidentally, a minor landslide also occurred in the same area near Middle Station on 29 September 2017, following heavy rainfall in mid-September 2017. The hill railway was then briefly suspended.)
Mounds of earth have fallen on the track near the Middle Station. You can also see a large boulder which may have damaged the track or the hauling cable..
Middle Station was bypassed following a controversial plan to ‘upgrade’ the railway in 2011. The affected track is at the new passing place just above Middle Station. Is this the area that was widened during the ‘upgrading’ work?
It will take a while to clear the track of all that earth. And that’s the easy bit. After that it will take much time and effort to stabilise the hill slope before the railway can be used.
The photos also show the two trains that are stuck in the area. Notice the blue tarpaulin sheet on the roof of one of the coaches. What is this covering? Look at the shattered glass pane. How did the windscreen crack? It was reported that one train’s windscreen was damaged due to a fallen tree branch.
We should be thankful that the landslide did not land right smack on the trains, or the consequences do not bear thinking about.
As for the workers, they don’t have hard hats and don’t appear to be wearing industrial boots which offer better protection. Is it safe for them to work like that near an unstable slope? In the wake of the fatal landslide in Tanjung Bungah, no effort should be spared to ensure workers’ safety.
The work to repair the tracks and the coach and stabilise the hill slopes must be done carefully and meticulously. Then, we need independent experts, including the Swiss coach makers, to inspect the work and certify the safety of the tracks, the slopes and the coaches before the railway can resume operation.
Not something to be rushed, even if it is the holiday season right up to the Lunar New Year.
Check out the landslides along the farmers’ trails in the area as well.
And another one:
This boulder is perched precariously at the top of a slope:
Penang Hills Railways had been plagued by other problems following the corporatisation of the railway, mainly pricey fares, the difference between local and foreign fares (not all non-Malaysians are rich!), and overcrowding (as this blog previously reported), testing the carrying capacity of the hill to the limit provided under the Penang Hill Local Plan.
One visitor to Penang, Serge Elias Grynkewich wrote on a Facebook page in June: “Perhaps it was because of the school holiday, but I found the train to be overcrowded to the point of being annoying and uncomfortable. Also, being penalised with a very high fare because I am not a Malaysian was irksome. I used this railway a few years back and found it more foreigner-friendly and less bureaucratic. Too bad things changed.”
Lamented another visitor, Rachel Liddell: “This service is ridiculous. Unless you want to pay more for the fast lane don’t bother. It’s not even worth it once you get up there. Sure it’s a nice view but I’m sure you can drive up the hill and not pay a stupid amount and wait in a ridiculous line in Malaysia’s heat. They won’t even refund you your ticket of you decide not to go.”