By Joshua Woo
The Penang state government has adopted an elevated Light Rail Transit (LRT) system instead of an on-ground tram system for the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
One of the reasons the state government abandoned the previously proposed on-ground tram system is that it poses a danger to other road users, pedestrians and infrastructure.
Statistics from the Australian Transport Safety Victoria record a rise in incidents of tram collisions involving people, infrastructure and road vehicles of 85%, 175% and 17% respectively over the past five years from 2013 to 2017.
In that period, 192 people were hurt, 40 structures were damaged and 4,445 vehicles crashed.
Accidents happen due to various causes. But banning all privately owned cars from the roads is utterly impractical. No credible government in the world has attempted that.
While governments should constantly improve road safety for private car users, they should also build a public transport infrastructure which has the least danger of accidents occurring. Thousands of people use public transport every day. Safety is non-negotiable. A responsible government must take this into consideration when choosing which public transport system to build.
It is therefore surprising that highly educated individuals with PhDs would lobby and write a series of articles demanding that the Penang government replace the elevated LRT with trams.
It is even more surprising that there are local councillors, responsible for ensuring the well-being of the people, who would pursue the state government and stir up public opinion towards a public transport system which poses more risk to the people.
If the Transport Safety Victoria statistics on tram collisions are any indication, the PTMP’s elevated LRT would pose less risk to the public than an on-ground tram system.
When choosing a public transport system, we need to evaluate cost, feasibility, foreseeable risk, public safety and other factors to reach the best balance. Public safety is an essential factor that should not be compromised.
A government that willingly spends RM8.4 billion on a safer transport system for the people is better and more responsible than one that spends less but builds a riskier system that endangers the public.
Joshua Woo is a former member of the traffic management committee and urban planning committee of the Seberang Perai Municipal Council.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.