Trams could complement no-car zone


Tram engineer Ric Francis has responded to a newspaper report about a proposal for a no-car zone in George Town.

Inner city George Town tram route proposed by Ric Francis

I read with interest your article on Heritage Area car free, I have pushed this subject with Government Officials included with my Tramway in Heritage Area, I know things take time to happen in Penang, but this idea would work with my suggestion on a Tramway

Ric Francis
Tramway Engineer
Perth Electric Tramway
Perth, Western Australia

Trams in Berlin - Image credit:

Meanwhile, one political economist has said there is no reason why trams cannot be eventually extended all over Penang. He noted that trams are used extensively and effectively over long stretches in cities such as Amsterdam and Berlin.

Where to find the money for this? Well, if we can afford submarines and fighter planes, then surely we can afford an improved public transport system.

Madrid Pedestrian Zone_Oct09-mk
Madrid: Image by ITDP-Europe via Flickr

It is about time Malaysians are weaned off their car dependency – a move which would greatly relieve our cities of their stressful congestion.

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Ric Francis

I find it hard to under stand why the Federal Government does not support Penang. In my Monthly report on Tramways and LRT I noticed this report MALAYSIA MALACCA. A 1.6km (one-mile) monorail with one 24-passenger car has been built at a cost of MRMI5.9m (USD5m) from Taman Rcmpah to Kampung Bunga Raya. Originally intended to be completed in May. opening was postponed to 29 August. but it seems this date is unlikely to have been met, as the necessary safety approvals were not forthcoming in time. My question is how come Malacca can get this project funded Ric Francis… Read more »


Even if you have the tram or MRT, the people in Malaysia would still drive their cars as it is a habit developed from our NAP to promote Proton purchase.

Also where got ‘gaya’ (style) to bring your girlfriend out on a tram? Ask the youngster.

If you look the newstands, there are many auto magazines that appeal to car ownership.


Kamal, have you seen the Titanic movie?
I mean no sinking boat ferry for you and sweetheart!
At least on the boat, you can concentrate on your ‘apple’ than on the dangerous road driving!

Tak Gerak

Car ownership has now become a MUST for all young people enering into workforce. Those MPV are useful for them to ‘make out’ in the car, quikie without having to check into a cheap hotel.


I have suggested that FullCar VVIP or First Class Private Cabins (4 to 6 per car as opposed to 50 seats a car) be incorporated into MRT or trams before.

Only that would encourage VIP use and impart a sense of Gaya, though beware hidden cameras those who do use the private cars or cabins like it’s your home (i.e. for sex).


Porters could set up the MRT cars as needed and leave VVIP full cars or 4-6 Cabin set ups to their privacy after extending cabin walls or folding back 3rd class seats.


Khalwat checks/raids will/may be part of VVIP cabin travel lifestyle!
Tinted windows? It is getting very interesting for tram travelling or travelling for ‘quikie’!!!
Why not suggest private birthday bashes on trams after midnight?
That way you don’t have to be on the lookout! And still enjoy the ride!
Cheers to trams in Penang!


Why nobody ask for sea transportation. Penang is an island, so in theory it is accessible from all directions around the island. Instead of building more roads like the proposed Outer Ring Road (PORRAH), why not build more mini jetties at strategic pick up points. Give licenses to those interested to operate boat ferries to carry passengers to work or for leisures. Imagine those from Balik Pulau can just hop into a boat and commute to work in George Town without driving and adding to the traffic jams. And it may take less commuting time and save our nation’s petrol.… Read more »


Definately a workable idea! Think of Amsterdam, for example, what a pretty city to visit!

Let the heritage zone be a no car zone, only tram, bi- or tricycle. Plant more trees, cover up all the dirty open-ditch, repaint all the heritage buildings. Frankly, it won’t cost a lot, even the state government can afford to do it alone without the federal help.


There is no pedestrian-friendly walkway in malaysia.
Very treacherous to walk on narrow and uneven pathway, with stones/sands/concrete waste (left behind by the Class Z contractors), uncovered manholes … no covered shelter… dipilated bus stop…

That’s an excuse for people to drive for personal safety.


I keep wondering why trams and trains have to be so heavy. Is there some innate requirement for massive construction, or is it just a legacy of a less sophisticated age? I know I’ve suggested a public log-flume network for Penang before – half in jest, I think – but is anybody considering much lighter-weight public transport options? I see someone mocking trishaws in the thread, but there’s nothing essentially wrong with the transport. The problems are skint, emphysemic, old guys on rickety old contraptions and the prospect of a shameful death between the twin tyres of a carelessly driven… Read more »


“with great powers comes great responsibility”

In this case ” with great powers but scared of taking responsibility”..

Yeah…brain drain too …all those left behind like LGE and the rest are “mediocre” by standards of those that has left our country and done great wonders for other countries instead.


At least we have ‘mediocre’ people like LGE brave enough to stand up agaisnt the ‘useless’ politicians (those claimed to be ‘back into business’) that are robbing the rakyat in open daylight with bull… slogan and policy.

Ong Eu Soon

Guess how much is the new allocation the state government give to public bus transit. A pity amount of RM600,000. I expect a huge amount of money to spend on land acquisition for bus drop off and pick up points, but there is nothing in the budget. No plan or anything on bus drop off and pick up points. Only talk of another big bus terminal that doesn’t make bus services more efficient. No plan on the route networking topology. Nothing at all on public bus transit that is significant for us to celebrate.


Having spent a number of years in Melbourne, you’d come to really like the idea of inner city trams. My only concern is how Malaysian motorists would deal with them, seeing how motorcycles tend to ‘tembak’ as well as dangerous driving habits for some.


Accordig to NST, Statistics (the one by BN of course)showed there were only 5.5 million foreign and domestic tourists to Penang in 2009 compared with Malacca, which was visited by 8.9 million tourists, during the same period.

If we dissect further, the 8.9 million ‘tourists’ to Melaka could be day-tripping Singaporeans coming in for food or passing by enroute to KL? Or are they the illegals from Sumatra?


Most probably a lot of lorry drivers and lorry attendants on 2 way daily transit to Singapore stopping to pee at petrol stations or kopitiams in Melaka. So to pee in Melaka is also considered a statistics of tourist counts?

Ong Eu Soon

Hi Ric Francis, In order to talk to the Penang state government, you can’t talk to LGe the way I did as an engineer. LGe will only listen when you come out with real proposal showing the investment money, the resources needed, the design and your willingness to undertake the project. This state government has an inferior complex problem, it can’t do anything on its own. You can’t work like a lobbist, you should go in as a developer with plan and money and sell the whole project to the state government after completion. Otherwise nobody will listen to you.… Read more »


Please consider one thing at a time. We already have the free bus shuttle service provided by MPPP or is it by Rapid now serving the the boundary of the heritage city. Why not try adding Chulia Street to it’s route to make it shorter for passengers to walk to destinations within the inner city before suggesting any other mode.

Ong Eu Soon

RM 4 million on a tram is a big problem, not a problem to churn out RM 10 million every year for senior citizens. The reason? LGe still need the cheap publicity stunt of a welfare handout to shore up his popularity. LGe like to mingle with the crowd, taking photo shots featuring how grateful the senior citizens are when receiving welfare handout from him. The entire efforts are just a poor marketing construct aimed at shoring up LGe’s popularity. It is most unethical for LGe to spend public money on cheap publicity blitz for his personal gain especially when… Read more »


At least LGE does not need to resort to expensive publicity stunt like 1 Malaysia – hoolow with no substance that even Tun M cannot understand.


$50M to have trams and tramways. Why not ask NGOs and pressure group to press the Government at the Offer. Remember the government has lent some land for some LRT testing in penang. What a cheap publicity. Cheap contractor and engineer. You can offer your deal to UMNO. They love your cost of $50M as they (could mark up)… To UMNO, what is $50M? Sup sup sui as they value added your cost to their pockets.

Ong Eu Soon

LGe can afford to build PICC. RM50 million for a white elephant. The money is more than enough to finance the tram.


Ong, you can do the tramway include the supply of tram and commissioning as proposed Francis for RM 50M, then by hook or by crook, then Penang must appoint you as all in the engineer, contractor and also you pay for the reviewer and verifier cost. Your cost also include supply of substations to energise the trams, signalling and relocation of utility services and public liability insurance.


We have been waiting for this tramway idea to take off for how many years but till now it is but just an idea. If RM4 million is so difficult to get it done, why did Gomen propose LRT for Penang which costs many times more, takes more land space, wastes time to build and serves no more than one or two major routes. Penang needs such (tramway) development that can sustain its environment, improve transportation and bring about more tourism related businesses. We don’t need mega billion ringgit projects if it doesn’t serve any good purpose but the gravy… Read more »

Gerakan K

Trams are so environment unfriendly.

If you want crazy thing being implemented, try trishaw instead.


I visited Munich recently, the tram in downtown is very efficient and environmental friendly. I think Georgetown/Penang should reintroduce the tram if construction of subway is too expensive..

Andrew Aeria

Actually, we don’t need those useless submarines. They, along with those Sukhoi aricraft, should be sold and the proceeds invested in improved public transport. The excuse of “No Budget” is not an excuse anymore since budgets are really how limited funds are apportioned out. And since Malaysia DOES NOT have any security threats and military enemies, and since Malaysia is within ASEAN’s ZOPFAN, then, we don’t need an army. Disband it – along with that other useless human rights-abusing agency called RELA – and re-allocate the money to public transport, health and education. And while we are at it, scrap… Read more »


You seems very insistence about Tram system in Penang.
Seriously, tram won’t work in Penang. The road here is too narrow and congested for tram. Furthermore, with the attitude of our reckless motorist and bikers. It’s too dangerous to have tram. It’s not practical at all.


No problem if there is dedicated tramways and lined up trees along the road. This means no cars as they will block the trams. The British is very good in planning narrow roads as seen in all the colonies they occupied as compare to French. just look at Saigon. Wider road with shaded trees from City centre to Chalon chinatown. The junctions does not even required Traffic police as the motorists are all on auto polot when negotiating the junctions. Why look at european model as we can see the HK trams for asians and tropical climates. HK trams are… Read more »


I have just returned from Shanghai, barely two years ago, I was dependent on taxis and buses for moving around the city. Now their MRT services are superb!…catering million of commuters daily. If they can do it in such a big way and efficiently, I am confident if the Penang State govt were to engage in trams as an alternative source to lessen the congestion in the city, it will be a win win solution to all.


Can Prof Eu Soon offer his ‘expert opinion’ on the cause of the flood in Kedah/Perlis?

Is it due to the twin rail track project causing drainage problem?

Gerakan K

The act of god.

Ong Eu Soon

If you want to eliminate flood, the only way is to allow water to flow down vertically to the underground. If you allow water to flow horizontally, it will converge and reach a critical point where the the outflow of water will not be fast enough to go to the sea. That is how flooding occur. To eliminate flooding or to lessen the effect of flooding, we need to do away with lokang system. With almost all of our legislators consists of lokang SA or lokang MP, without lokang they can’t posed like John Travolta with finger point downward. You… Read more »


“If you go to US, you can hardly find any horizontal drainage system”
Eh? So where do they go to film all those sequences with exploding trucks / fighting robots?


How to have flow down vertically drainage in URBAN areas unless we build detention ponds? Can you find the vertical flow down system in Sinkapore with their talents? Een the detention proposed by JPS pose a risk. Have they consider spread of disese due to the detention tanks can bred mosquitoes? The council check containers holding left over water. How about the water in detention tank if they are not properly constructed and designed.


When it rain 40 days and 40 nights, no matter what you do will not be good enough. Even the US can`t stop Katrina.

Ong Eu Soon

Nobody can build vertical drainage system for places under sea level.Stupid!


Only cheap engineer and contractor like you think of building drainage system on the sea level/face


The tram station itself must MOST IMPORTANTLY incorporate a *multistorey carpark*, shaded/tree-lined walking pathways and waiting bays for taxis, otherwise this tram idea will be an instant failure.

Ric Francis

Agree To Disagree, Well my friend get real and look at my map Park & Ride Station suggested by a Minister when taken around system .All tram stops are to be island controlled by traffic light. Never jump the gun untill you no the facts.


If you get a person who do not use public transportation as a designer/planner, then the project will definitely fail.

Anyway, any contractor in malaysia is only interested in cutting corners to make money.
They do not think of commuter comfort or the environmental issues. The government would not care less as the politician is only interested in the commission they can get from the contractor, ironically appointed by them.