Friday, 22 July 2011

Penang Hill railway

Sometimes, we get what we did not ask for. In the case of the Penang Hill funicular rail system, all we wanted was for the system to be repaired so that it would not break down ever so often. We did not ask for the Middle Station to be bypassed so that the coaches could travel continuously from the Bottom Station to the Top Station and vice-versa. We did not even ask for new coaches. This was more than we bargained for and this was what we received through the "great generosity" of the Ministry of Tourism.

However, I've yet to experience this fast new funicular train service at Penang hill. Not that I fear for the breakdown of the service but it's because I don't have any reason to sit in the new train coaches yet. Eventually, I suppose that I will but it's just not yet.

But talking about the new Penang Hill train service, it has been beset with technical problems since the upgraded system, which cost RM73 million, started operations on 25 Apr 2011.

Eight days into its operation, the service broke down on 3 May 2011 after a stray dog hit a sensitive component of a coach. Strange that it should happen because I thought the designer, consultant, engineer, whatever, would have anticipated all the possibilities before embarking on the upgrade.

Then on 3 Jun 2011, the service stopped again after there was an electrical problem in one of the two coaches. The mind boggles. I'm not going to repeat what I think about the work of the designer, consultant, engineer, whatever.

Four days on, there was another disruption on 7 Jun 2011. This time, it was due to the failure of an electronic component in the power supply module in one of the coaches. Thankfully, I haven't heard of any more hiccups after that, so I hope these breakdowns are just teething problems.

Still, they are causing an embarassment to the state because all the work has turned out sub-standard despite all the money spent, and people think wrongly that this is a state government project. But no, it is not a state government project. It is a federal government project which was handed over to the state government after the project was completed. So in my opinion, if there is any sub-standard work, the Ministry of Tourism must shoulder the blame when this service breaks down.

Why do I say this is a federal government project? Because there's a huge signboard at the bottom station which proclaimed, blatantly and obscenely: "PROJEK KEMENTERIAN PELANCONGAN MALAYSIA KERAJAAN BARISAN NASIONAL KEPADA PENDUDUK-PENDUDUK PULAU PINANG."

They don't have to seek all that publicity, right? They could have just been modest about their great "financial assistance".

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