Penang Hill train service will continue through the festive season

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Hill funicular train service will continue as usual throughout the year-end festive season once the haul rope drum issue is solved.

Penang Hill Corporation (PHC) general manager Datuk Cheok Lay Leng said shutting down the funicular train is not an option “as we will solve the ‘interim’ issue”.

“We will be ready for the festive season in December and whatever maintenance being done now will also be able to take on the Chinese New Year crowd,” said Cheok.

He said that the entire funicular train is a complex system of components.

“The breakdown was due to the sensor detecting the touching of the haul rope drum beneath one of the coaches,” said Cheok, who added the haul rope supervisory system is designed to detect any misalignment, and when the sensors detect that the rope is not right in the middle of the rollers, it will trigger an emergency stop.

“At times, it is a false alarm, but we have to ensure that every glitch is checked; this probably needs around 48 hours to resolve when the parts arrive next week,” he explained.

The funicular train service came under the spotlight when it broke down twice last weekend. This led to netizens venting their frustrations on social media.

Others questioned why PHC was dependent on the Swiss engineers and did not train local technical staff to carry out major maintenance works.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow told PHC to look into shutting down the funicular service, saying passenger safety was paramount compared to revenue.

“Our top priority is the passengers’ safety and this was a technical issue which will be solved,” said Cheok, who added that PHC has to wait for the Swiss engineers to perform major maintenance, probably early next year as the pandemic has exacerbated the issue.

“It must be understood that each of the funicular train carriages weighs 14,500kg, and there is the additional weight of 7,500kg from passengers,” he said.

“It is a heavily automated compact system and it will take a day to open it up, and only the Swiss engineers have the expertise to fix it.”Cheok said this interim issue can be solved without causing disruptions to the year-end and New Year festive holidays, as well as the Chinese New Year holidays in February.

“I assure passengers that this is a non-safety related issue,” he said, adding that PHC will do its best to ensure that the service runs seamlessly as soon as possible.

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