THE Penang Hill Corporation will improve crowd control at the funicular train bottom station after some 10,000 people swamped the area leading to a chaotic situation on Sunday.
Its director Datuk Lee Kah Choon said although they had anticipated a large crowd on Sunday and Monday because of public holidays, they were surprised that some 10,000 people turned up.
“We did not want to disappoint and turn away the many who came from outstation to board the upgraded funicular train system that was reopened on April 25, after being closed for a year for refurbishment work,” he said outside the station yesterday.
Lee said there were some 2,000 passengers on Friday and about 5,000 passengers on Saturday.
“We have learnt lessons from the incident and will ensure the existing approach to compartmentalise passengers in several waiting areas are followed.
“At any one time, we can have some 80 visitors in each of the five waiting areas inside the main building at the bottom station.
“We have also created a 50-m long pavement with roofing for visitors to be released in batches onto the base station grounds while the main gate would be closed when there are large crowds,” he said.
Chinese dailies reported that a visitor fainted after waiting for several hours under the blazing sun on Sunday.
According to the dailies, the management closed the main gate because of the large crowd while only two ticketing counters were operational.
They also said that many residents in the area complained of tour buses and cars parked haphazardly in front of their entrances, while motorists complained of being slapped with parking summonses.
Lee said between Friday and yesterday, some 50 employees worked through two shifts between 6.30am and 10.30pm, while 10 Rela members were deployed to guide the people and control traffic movement.
He also said Sunday was the first day after a six-day charity ride where return tickets were sold at RM10 for adults while children below 12 years rode for free to raise funds for the state Social Welfare Department.
Lee said the lack of car parking lots in the area could have further contributed to the traffic congestions on Sunday.
“A new multi-storey car park outside the station that was built with funds from the Tourism Ministry has been completed but it is not open yet.
“We believe the Penang Municipal Council may take about a month or two to issue the Certificate of Fitness (OC) to the car park, which has 120 parking bays,” he said.
A check at the hill station yesterday, however, showed that the situation was under control, with Lee personally chatting with several passengers waiting in the queue to get their feedback.
Lee said the two new air- conditioned Swiss funicular coaches that could comfortably seat 80 passengers each, were travelling on a six to 10-minute interval from the bottom station to the top station.
He said about 600 passengers could be transported up the hill within an hour.
“During peak season, it could take between 30 minutes and 45 minutes for passengers to reach the hill top from the time they queue up at the ticketing counter.
“We have provided chairs for senior citizens and those who are unable to stand long in queues.”