Why Penang wants LRT, not trams – drivers’ bad habits

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GEORGE TOWN: Penang drivers’ habits, congestion and accidents are reasons why the elevated Light Rail Transit (LRT) was favoured over on-the-road Light Rail Vehicles (LRV), the state Legislative Assembly heard today.

State Local Government Committee Chairman Chow Kon Yeow (DAP-Padang Kota) said the elevated LRT was more suitable, based on soil studies and cost factors.

He said although many parties want an at-grade (on the road) train system, studies showed this was prone to collisions with cars.

“If an at-grade system is implemented, one lane will have to be closed.

“Having an elevated train path would only involve building beams on medians, allowing traffic to flow smoothly below.

“At-grade would cause massive traffic,” Chow said in his winding-up speech in the august house.

Citing figures from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, he said LRVs were more crash prone, with an average of 200 accidents per quarter in 2015.

“Based on our country’s driver habits, especially in Penang, accidents involving cars and trams would be very high if we have at-grade trains,” Chow said.

He also fended off claims that LRVs were cheaper.

“The Sydney LRV costs A$183 million per kilometre.

“It was initially estimated to cost AU$600 million, but in the end cost a total A$2 billion,” Chow said.

He said building a tramway in Edinburgh, UK, was delayed after the costs skyrocketed.

“But we will still carry out an at-grade tramway at the George Town Heritage buffer zone – for tourism and mobility purposes,” Chow said.

The rail project is part of the RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan. This involves linking Penang Island with the mainland, through rail transit systems, an undersea tunnel and bus routes.

Also planned are bypass roads to ease congestion along bursting roads. Reclamation of land along the seafront is expected to fund these projects.