Trams: Can Penang emulate The Netherlands?


Trams glide along the narrow streets of Amsterdam (Photo credit:

Blog reader Josh, a Penangite in the Netherlands, is impressed with the trams over there:

I fully support the re-introduction of trams in Penang. I am a Penangite now living in The Hague, The Netherlands. Trams are the main public transportation here in The Netherlands, be it in The Hague, Amsterdam or Rotterdam.

The roads in these city are narrow and cars are aplenty; yet you will be amazed how trams co-exist so efficiently with cars on the road, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

And the trams here are not for tourists; they are really the main transportation for the general public: people use them to go to school, go to work, go about their normal daily lives.

I do believe they are a viable option for Penang Island.

TheLastGig, who has also experienced Amsterdam’s tram system, agrees:

I fully agree with Josh. I was in Amsterdam for a week and I find the trams to be very efficient; you can go practically everywhere around Amsterdam especially with the multiple-journey strippenkart. The most important thing is to plan the network so that it can cover more areas without compromising on the efficiency.

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What is LGE’s view on the Trams for Penang?


Transit Expert & loess74, instead of just expressing your views here, have you thought of offering your services directly to LGE’s government? But that is also NOT going to be easy. A Penangite friend of mine offered his help to LGE’s office when the Penang Hill funicular train system broke down but a DAP politico got in the way and wanted the full proposal in great detail but refused to help my friend to meet the right people in the state administration. Why? – I can only speculate… My friend was one of the original engineers who set up the… Read more »


Well Transit Expert, Going underground or creating a viaduct is going to cost money. With such a limited state budget (< 1 Billion MYD a year, I am not wrong), it’s going to be tough. Perhaps Studies can be conducted on 1) Existing car populations within Georgetown. Possibly CBDed the entire Georgetown 2) Traffic flow to and fro Georgetown 3) Extensive Public Consulation on the CBD OF Georgetown. Proposing options such as 1) Impose higher ERP / Congestion fee / Toll charges. Yada! Yada! One got to pay at least M$7.70 to enter by Ferry. Don’t wanna talk about the… Read more »


Trams are just hard wares. It is not a question of trams versus cars. Why Malaysia gets itself stuck into huge traffic problem is the sheer lack of soft wares of all those who are responsible for the design and implementation of our public transport system. The soft wares are fore-sight planning, compassion and respect for the rights for the ordinary citizens, appreciation of quality of life. Everywhere you go in The Hague, you can see and feel that the Dutch government has given a lot of thoughts to the ordinary citizen – the ease of public transport, the wide… Read more »

Transit expert

A further further point to add (this subject is so interesting!): Some may be confused about the difference between trams and LRT. Well, the KL LRT is not a very good example of an LRT. In Europe, they can be used interchangeably, especially in France. They are basically railways with vehicles less massive and travel at lower speed compared to normal railways. In addition, their tracks can also be embedded to flush with road surface. All these are because of safety reasons so that the impact with a tram will not be more devastating than with a bus. The same… Read more »

Li Huat Chai

I just came back from Prague, their tram system is efficient too.
I will be the first one to sell my car and go around with trams as
my means of transport.

Transit expert

A further point to add. There is no need to debate ideologically whether it should be underground, at grade (ground level), or on viaduct. This will is a combination of technical and economic solution. Where there is adequate land, it should be at grade (cheapest). Where land is limited or there is complex traffic intersection, then these sections may need to either dive underground or raised on viaducts. For crossing to the mainland, it can either go on a bridge (it would have been so easy for the present widening of the Penang bridge to cater to this also) or… Read more »

Transit expert

I have written previously against trams for Penang. Not that I do not like it. If you would like to make Trams work in Penang like the way it does in Netherland, the number of cars will have to be reduced by say 80%. This is because, like Loose74 said, trams will need the road space presently occupied by cars to work. So, are you guys prepared to give up your cars and use trams? I’m sure some of you will say this is a chicken and egg problem. Probably so. So, we will need a two prong approach. While… Read more »

anak perelih

My idea is..
from outside the city (Georgetown).. ie from air itam, batu fringi, jelutong, bayan baru etc…).. LRT is the solution…

this LRT comes into the town (at Komtar/Jetty) and tram will takes over the route after that.. criss crossing the town… like to padang kota, etc..

outside the town… from LRT stations, buses will take over the routes to housing estates… and other areas…

it should be a combination of transportation type… and a multiple usage ticketing system….


TheLastGig – The strippenkart system is excellent if everyone is honest and behave in accordance to a code of honour. As a former Penangite I can just imagine the average Penangite would be tempted to cheat the system by riding for free and becoming “schwartzritters” (German for black riders). We need draconian enforcement laws akin to what you see in Singapore to keep tram riders honest. In teh countries I have resided in before – The Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the penalties are severe and could include imprisonment.


As I have mentioned earlier, LGE administration requires a comprehensive review and revamp of the Penang Island transportation system. Definitely, LGE administration requires inputs from all parties including the public. Need to cover all corners before commiting into this matter. With facts based upon certain analysis such as DFSS (who says that this cannot be used for improvement of overall transport management system), we can see then the best transport solution implemented for Penang. It might not include Tram after all if it’s proven not effective Such measures and policies would be implemented gradually over time with constant review (FMEA).… Read more »


True Malaysian – what you say about Vietnam’s taxis is correct but we have no choice but to use cheap imports like Kia Optima (less than RM 90K) as the current Perdana (I believe) is a problematic car built with lots of cheap materials and tend to break down or underpowered if loaded or used round the clock. ….


how to inplement when the federal cancel all the funding?


I fully agree with Josh. I was in Amsterdam for a week and I find the tram to be very efficient, you can go practically everywhere around Amsterdam especially with the multiple-journey strippenkart. The most important thing is to plan the network so that it can cover more areas without compromising on the efficiency.

Ken Chan

Having trams (just an example, the point here is to adopt public transport in wider scale. Underground subway is still more desirable for a modern city) will ease the inter-street and inter-district traffic and hence drive down the number of cars floating around the city. This is the simple concept of layering public transport in a city or district. I still don’t understand why until now we still think that CAR is the root cause of higher traffic. Step back and think ahead. The lack of public transport is promoting more cars into the city, but not because the cars… Read more »


Trams should be the way to go for Georgetown…. provided Penangites do not continue to park their MyVis everywhere including blocking the trmas…. he he!

True Malaysian

There is no national concerted efforts to improve the public transportation except random hit like the ERT, KTM recently announced by the Prime Minister and the budget. The Government MUST take serious efforts and committed to the nation with strong political will to make Malaysia EXCITING !!! By earning the status of UNESCO is nothing really to shout about. What the future plan and actions are something the people and the future generations can look forward to. If the Federal and State Government is dead serious about public transportation, they should consider the following humble proposals as Public transportation requires… Read more »


Dear Anil, The issue here is the heavy traffic in Penang. There are simply too many cars in Penang island particularly Georgetown. Having a tram system would be pointless because if you can’t get rid of those cars on the roads. Tram would truly occupy the already congested roads in Georgetown. The questions are 1) Are LGE and CKW (Transport exco) going to implement policies by restricting car populations in Penang island through a) COE ala Singapore / Forcing Penangites to own 2 car parking slots (Hong Kong Style) – control car ownership – Need Ong Tee Keat’s help –… Read more »


I think trams are an option to be considered, but I think we shouldn’t become so emotionally invested in the idea that we lose sight of other options. Yes, many really great cities have trams. But there are many that don’t. I live in Melbourne, and yea the trams are nice, but frankly when given a choice between a tram or a walk I often opt for the latter if weather permits; seems like less of a hassle a lot of the time. I was in Amsterdam recently for a holiday, and yes they have trams, but I found bicycles… Read more »

Lochos Vestu

These cities: Amsterdam, Munich, are large, major cities of major Western European nations. To be pragmatic, it is doubtful Georgetown can reach such levels of efficiency. And the costs are high as well.

But it is better to make a start somehow, start with something small like improving the current bus public transport. We also have a culture problem because Malaysians are rude, boorish and impatient when it comes to cooperating on utilizing public transportation.


On Rico’s comment of slow speed of trams, I believe that city centre traffic has to be SLOW because of congestion. As such, trams can fit in.


Forget the trams, bring the coffeeshops!!

Ken Chan

Same goes Munich, the capital city of Bavaria, Germany. It has the most comprehensive public transport systems in the world. Serving 2.6mil urban population on daily basis, the trains (underground and suburban), trams and buses co-exist and running through 90% of the city streets and access.

Hong Kong island also seeing the double-decker tram running through the busy business districts.

Penang has to elevate its public transport system. To benefit the people and at same time put Penang on par with other major cities in the world. Action is more than needed for talking. Good luck Penang. Good luck Malaysia.

Rico Suave

But trams are slow. Malaysian lifestyle — hurry hurry hurry.

Instead of trams, why not have better buses? Buses can do the same routes, with more flexibility.


I can just picture Penang Island, with the trams rolling along Burma Road, Macalister Road, Penang Road, Chulia St, Pitt St, through Farquhar St, and cruise along Notham Road and Gurney Drive, Kelawai Road, Bagan Jamal Road, etc, etc…, what a sight!!! Trams for Penang, and Penang for Trams!