KL Monorail may have other roles to play

The 16-year-old system is viewed to have reached a critical point and is further overshadowed by the emergence of other rail-based mass transportation

By RAHIMI YUNUS / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

ARE we still trying to transport the masses by monorail? Or are there better alternatives now?

The Kuala Lumpur (KL) Monorail has been performing unsatisfactorily in recent times, garnering grouses from commuters over various reasons. Not to mention its history of mishaps over the years.

It is time stakeholders revisit the monorail’s purpose as other rail networks — such as the LRT and MRT — are expanding

In 2002, during a test run, a 13.4kg safety wheel fell from a train, hitting journalist David Cheliah who was walking under the monorail viaduct at Jalan Sultan Ismail. He suffered head injuries, was hospitalised and won a RM5 million negligence suit the following year.

In 2005, two women were injured when a pneumatic load tyre burst. Train breakdowns were reported in 2012 and another in January this year, trapping 180 passengers, while in 2015, the service was delayed when a tyre of a train caught fire at the Titiwangsa station.

The 16-year-old system is viewed to have reached a critical point and is further overshadowed by the emergence of other rail-based mass transportation.

Universiti Putra Malaysia head of vehicle, engineering and mobility Prof Dr Wong Shaw Voon said it is time stakeholders revisit the monorail’s purpose as other rail networks — such as the light rail transit (LRT) and mass rapid transit (MRT) — are expanding.

‘Are we moving towards making the monorail like the LRT with more capacity, longer stations and what not?’ asks an expert

“The monorail may be adequate in the early days when we had limited LRT lines and no MRT. Now, the crowd is bigger and the latter two can do a better job, while the monorail may have other roles to play, and that needs to be revisited,” Wong told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Ultimately, Wong said a monorail system is never meant to be an effective way to move big crowds, in view of its capacity, comfort level and technical safety.

Instead, a small, slow-moving rail-based carrier is arguably more practical for amusement parks, resorts and airports.

Opened on Aug 31, 2003, the KL Monorail alignment cuts through the heart of KL’s Golden Triangle via 11 stations, crossing key corporate offices and tourist spots.

Today, almost all its stations — including KL Sentral, Bukit Bintang and Plaza Rakyat — are integrated with the LRT and MRT lines, raising the prospect of a review in KL’s public transportation strategy to optimise capacity and capability.

Operated by Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, the KL Monorail conundrum has gone from bad to worse due to a rolling stock issue, whereby the delivery of 12 four-car sets by Scomi Group Bhd to Prasarana has fallen short.

However, the woes are set to ease when three four-car trains under repair are delivered to Prasarana on Aug 16, following a RM303 million settlement agreement inked between Prasarana and a Scomi unit, Scomi Transit Projects Sdn Bhd, in early April.

The inefficiency of the monorail services could be associated with poor governance and mismanagement

This marked the end of their legal dispute over the delivery of the 12 four-car trains.

Five four-car train coaches have stopped operating since January 2018, forcing Prasarana to run the monorail services with only six twocar trains.

Its ridership dropped over 50% from 70,000 passengers daily, to about 31,000 due to inadequate capacity and unsatisfactory services.

One monorail car can only accommodate 107 people, compared to 300 people on an MRT coach, which is not only faster, but also more comfortable.

“Are we moving towards making the monorail like the LRT with more capacity — four-car or six-car sets — longer stations and what not?

There should not be any negative competition among our public transportation. Each of them has different strengths,” Wong said.

He said the monorail could be optimised mainly for city sightseeing, while the LRT and MRT focus on carrying mass passengers.

There should be added values for LRT and MRT stations’ facilities to attract not only commuters, but also the general consumers

He added that such a proposition would require a change of operational mindset for all the three services. For instance, Wong said the KL Monorail could use a different type of coach with maximum window viewing and suitable seat arrangements for the intended purpose.

Meanwhile, there should be added values for LRT and MRT stations’ facilities to attract not only commuters, but also the general consumers.

Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute’s Centre for Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Dr Ramon Navaratnam, who is also a former Transport Ministry secretary general, echoed Wong’s views.

“It may be a good idea to have a whole review of the transportation plan for the next 20 to 30 years. Do we have that? We do not.

“The current plan must be reviewed and revised in line with the economy, purchasing power, traffic demand and population,” Ramon told TMR.

Ramon said the inefficiency of the monorail services could be associated with poor governance and mismanagement.

He added that for the monorail to flourish, it must be managed based on meritocracy to avoid any possible monopoly and cronyism.