FOLK living on Penang Hill face a long trip for essentials as they depend entirely on either the jeep track or train but they are taking things in their stride.
They are used to being stuck on the hill due to fallen trees and landslides so they keep many days’ worth of supplies all the time.
Penang Hill Residents Association chairman M. Arunasalam, 69, said even before the movement control order (MCO), residents on Penang Hill would stock up to two weeks’ worth of supplies to prepare for emergencies.
“For my family, we used to stock up to a month’s worth of supplies.
“This is for us to prepare for emergencies like fallen trees or landslides because in such events, we will be unable to travel downhill, ” he said.
Arunasalam said there were about 20 families staying on the hill.
“This includes caretakers of some of the bungalows here, along with residents who make a living from tourism.
“Now with the MCO, there are only a few train trips provided by the Penang Hill Corporation (PHC) each day.
“These train trips are the only way some of the residents can reach the supermarkets and wet markets down the hill.
“Thankfully, the trains are still running despite the halt of train trips to outsiders and tourists, ” he added.
One of the residents near the middle station, flower seller Teh Hooi Choo, 57, travels downhill in the evenings and uphill again in the afternoons using the train each day.
Teh said as she had to buy food and essentials daily, she had to stay at her closed shop near Bandar Baru Ayer Itam to ease her trips to buy essentials for her family.
“Now that I cannot run my business, I stay at my shop near Bandar Baru Ayer Itam.
“Each evening, I take the last train down and spend the night in my shop.
“Then the next morning I buy food from supermarkets and markets and then bring the supplies uphill to my family at noon.
“As my family members do not cook, we have no choice but to buy takeaways every day, ” she said at the lower station recently.
Teh, who lives with her two brothers and a sister, said while taking trips up and down the hill could be a hassle, the good thing was that she no longer had to squeeze through crowds at the lower station.
Meanwhile, PHC general manager Datuk Cheok Lay Leng said the trains only run seven trips a day now.
The trips are at 7am, 8am, 9am, noon, 1pm, 5.30pm and 6.30pm.
“Since the train provides an essential service, we have to keep it running as it is the quickest way down.
“Otherwise, the residents living up there would have to hike down.
“Right now, we are keeping staff at minimal numbers as we still have residents living there so we need workers to maintain the hill.
“At any one time, we have easily 40 workers working to clear the tracks, maintain the hills and manage the upper and lower stations.
“We also have people cleaning and disinfecting the trains and stations as we still have residents and workers passing through, so we have to keep the premises clean.
“Although we are running at a loss, we have to do what we have to do as there are clinics and police stations on the hill too, ” he said.