Don’t stop the Penang Hill funicular railway

ON November 10, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow announced that Penang is considering shutting down the problematic Penang Hill funicular train service if it continues to break down, stressing the importance of passenger safety.

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is shocked at this announcement and hopes that the shutdown will not be permanent.

The iconic Penang Hill Railway was opened in 1923 with work beginning in 1920. The last modernisation of the train was in 2011, which reduced journey time to just 10 minutes.

Penang lost its ferry in December last year. Are we going to lose another icon that has been operating for nearly 100 years?

Or is this an announcement to give weight to the proposed cable car project? This announcement seems to be building up the logic of the need for a cable car, either as a replacement or an alternative to carrying people up the hill.

CAP is not against shutting down the Penang Hill Railway for repairs or servicing, as the safety of the train is most important, but to give the excuse that the train continues to break down and is problematic, and therefore that it may be shut down permanently is like giving up any hope on this service, which is important for tourists and residents on the hill.

The Penang Hill Railway had also created many wonderful memories for Penang folk and tourists.

There will be a public uproar if the Penang government decides to shut down the railway for good. There was when the Penang Ferry was closed last year.

Even Lim Guan Eng organised protests when the closure was announced. The blame was easy then because it was a federal government decision.

However, the railway is the responsibility of the state government and this decision, if it goes ahead, will incur the wrath of Penang folk.

The source of the breakdown should be located and rectified. In this hi-tech age, it is incredible that breakdowns cannot be reduced substantially or prevented.

Repair and service the railway at all costs for passengers’ safety but to completely shut it down and abandon it is irresponsible, because the train was only modernised in 2011.

There should be no double standards when it comes to protecting Penang’s icons and heritage. – November 17, 2021.

* Mohideen Abdul Kader is president of the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP).

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Sign up or sign in here to comment.