Penang Hill train service may shut down

Unscheduled stop: Repairs being carried out on the funicular train after service was disrupted on Sunday.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang is considering shutting down the problematic Penang Hill funicular train service if it continues to break down.Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow stressed that passenger safety was of paramount importance, rather than revenue.

“I will leave it to the management team of the Penang Hill Corporation (PHC) but if it needs to close down even during the peak season, stop the train service,” said Chow, who is PHC chairman.

In a statement, PHC stated that after the train had to operate “nearly non-stop” for several days during the long holiday weekend, the train’s wire rope had begun touching the haul rope drum beneath one of the coaches.

On Saturday alone, the train carried 7,298 passengers, which was considered a high volume.

The service was disrupted at 10am on Monday and only resumed yesterday. This was after it was stopped at 1.50pm on Sunday and maintenance work was carried out until 1am on Monday.

Chow said major maintenance was not feasible as Swiss engineers could not travel to Malaysia during the pandemic.

“The crowd was unusual due to the interstate travel and festive holiday. Passenger crowd was almost at pre-Covid-19 levels.

“As such, we need to speed up major maintenance work as earlier, the train was running at 50% capacity, but it is now at 70% to 80% capacity,” he said.

Chow said people had to wait for more than two hours to get onto the train during the holiday weekend.

“There is wear-and-tear over the last one year which needs to be looked into,” he added.

PHC general manager Datuk Cheok Lay Leng said since the engineers were not available, another option was to get the parts.

“It is engineering work and we have the expertise to get the work done as it is very unlikely we will get a team from Switzerland during the December holidays,” he said.The funicular train service was also disrupted on Oct 15 after a technical glitch. A track brake had locked after the safety mechanism detected a potential fault.

In February 2010, the funicular train saw a major upgrade costing RM63mil.

New tracks and cars boosted the train’s speed, and passengers no longer needed to get off midway to change trains like in the old days. The lower station was upgraded too and a public car park was also created.

The speedier train is capable of carrying up to 1,000 passengers per hour, compared with 250 previously.

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