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MM2H Agents Association Second National Workshop 2015
MM2H Centre in collaboration with MM2H Agents Association (MM2HAA) will organize MM2H 2nd National Workshop 2015 on 15th October 2015 (Thursday) at the Multipurpose Hall, Ministry of Tourism and...
Troubling ride on funicular train Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 July 2009 11:16

I AM deeply troubled by my first ride on the iconic Penang Hill Funicular Railway. I came across a number of safety deficiency issues, ranging from inadequate crowd control to the lack of proper facilities.

To get on the railway, I had to endure long queues, then watch everyone rush ahead to get a seat. Once inside the crowded coach, I sweated throughout the long and wounded snail-pace ride due to improper air circulation and ventilation.

At the middle station with no seating area, the crowd had no choice but to stand and wait until the upper train arrived. The crowd again rushed across the dangerous platform steps to get seats.

The conductor attached an air hose to the train, turned on the compressor and added air to the train to enable the doors to close. Even then, the doors were not securely closed.

Is there adequate air pressure to open the doors in an emergency?

Along the upper section, the ride is quite bumpy, indicating that the foundation underneath the tracks has settled or is falling apart. The numerous landslides along the tracks show increased levels of soil erosion.

The wire ropes that pull the trains are inconsistent in gauge and quality. The upper section is thicker in gauge but is somewhat dented and inconsistent whereas the lower section is smaller in gauge. How do the coaches compensate for these different gauges?

The railways show an unbelievable amount of wear and tear. If the wire rope were to loosen or break, the safety catch should theoretically lock the coach wheels onto the rail, preventing the coach from sliding down the hill.

Are these 85-year-old ageing rails still capable of supporting the weight of the coach? How often are they inspected and certified safe? Are these structurally weakened rails and tracks the reason the train travels at such a slow pace?

Is there a back-up safety system capable of using efficient standby power or manual over-ride to move the train to the nearest station in order to safely disembark the passengers in case of a power failure or any type of malfunction of the railway system?

Is there an Emergency Response Plan? I did not see one.

Where are the statutory certificates confirming that the train is regularly inspected and certified safe? I didn’t see these either.

If there was an accident, am I covered by insurance or am I riding the funicular at my own risk?

Does the Penang Hill Funicular meet the international safety standards?

I hope those who champion the Heritage call do not ignore the subject of safety. I understand and agree with preserving buildings and culture, but when it comes to machinery with moving parts, it is a very different matter.

Perhaps those in authority should take a ride on the railway, observe the current conditions and insist on a total long-term solution to the Penang Hill Funicular before the next headline reads “Disaster in Penang”.

George Town.


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