The Kuala Lumpur Monorail

This is quite a bit outside the normal topics covered here, but a recent question in another thread asked about how the KL Monorail was doing.  Here is a response from a regular reader, Moaz Yusuf Ahmad.  Thanks to him for providing this info.

Hi Steve

I would be happy to respond to Ben’s question about the KL Monorail.

The original design for the monorail was to provide a people mover service through the different sections of the KL Linear City, as well as providing public transport through the “Golden Triangle” of Kuala Lumpur.

Side note: KL Linear City was a project to beautify the Klang River, one of the 2 major rivers that flows through Kuala Lumpur. The plan was to sell the air rights and riverside of some sections of the river to developers, who would put malls, apartments, condos, and parking (in sections) along this land. The river would then be cleaned up by the developer.

The original intention was to extend the monorail further into the south of Kuala Lumpur. However, the KL Linear City and Monorail were delayed by the 1997 Financial crisis.

KL Linear city never recovered. Some of the riverside developments were built but remain abandoned today. Fortunately, no projects were built over the river although the Monorail company did mention this back in 2005.

Anyways, back to the monorail – the Malaysian government stepped in and bought the rights to the monorail design. They also cut the costs for the monorail by removing the southern extension, eliminating one station, and cutting out things like evacuation walkways and lifts.

The monorail was completed and opened in 2003 running from “KL Sentral” station (the site is actually located 300 m away from the station in the Brickfields neighbourhood).

Currently the monorail runs with 2-carriage trainsets. Stations have a capacity for 4-carriage trains but there has been no clear announcements about expanding the system except for an overly ambitious proposal from the monorail company that was launched back in 2005.

(As another aside, my comments and response to that proposal are probably what got me interested in pursuing transit-related issues while I was in Malaysia)

The original company that built the monorail was taken over by a conglomerate called Scomi and is now operating as a division within that conglomerate. They have designed a new monorail called the SUTRA – Scomi Urban Transit Rail Application (SUTRA also means “silk” in Malay/Indonesian) which has 2, 4 and 8 carriage options.

Currently Scomi is working on marketing the new monorail design for projects in India and Vietnam, rather than here in Malaysia. Even my calls for them to supply trains for an expanded monorail system fell on deaf ears.

The KL Monorail operating company also has new ownership – they were taken over by the government in December 2007 and are now a division of Prasarana, the National Infrastructure Company.

Prasarana also owns the assets (railcars, stations, buses) of the other LRT lines in KL – which are operated by a sister company, RapidKL. When Prasarana took over the monorail they created another company, KL Starrail to run the monorail – instead of having RapidKL run it.

So there you have it. Corporate and government shenanigans and no serious improvements to the monorail service since 2003. This despite Scomi of Malaysia being ‘recognized’ as one of the ‘3 major monorail manufacturers’ of the world.

Our ART Mark II-based ‘LRT’ line is another story for another date. But if you are interested in photos or documents about the original monorail line or the KL Linear City please let me know. I have good contacts with one of the original architects.

Regards, Moaz Yusuf Ahmad

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

klangvalley.transit@gmail.com
Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
http://transitmy.org

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5 Responses to The Kuala Lumpur Monorail

  1. Mike says:

    Thx Moaz, interesting read.

    Please do post your ART Mark II-based ‘LRT’ line story.

    Mike

  2. Kristian says:

    If anyone has futher interest in monorails in general then I would recommend visiting http://www.monorails.org for exhaustive coverage of everything monorail, past and present. You’ll often see news articles about current systems and plans that go mostly un-reported in the mainstream media, or sooner than you would get them otherwise. There is a very detailed technical section for those of us who enjoy the ‘guts’ of transit just as much as the functions it serves. Anything they don’t cover is taken care of with off-site links by other individuals with a more ‘rabid obsession’ for a particular system.

    I would note that while I enjoy learning about guided-vehicle technologies of all sorts, I’m not actually a big fan of monorails. The engineering complexity of trying to stabilize the weight of a train over and around a single box-beam is ridiculous and relatively impractical. Given that they generally use a large number of pneumatic rubber road tires to accomplish this, it’s like turning a six-tire bus into an 18-wheel tractor trailer just to do the same job. The technology does have its merits however, such as a minimally intrusive elevated track structure and quiet operation, and I applaud anyone who has taken the risk on developing monorail systems for their guts in experimenting with a lesser-proven design.

    I had to chuckle when I read that ART is ‘only’ at Mark II, but the Disneyland monorail is currently at Mark VII. Clearly Bombardier isn’t trying hard enough. On a serious note though, Transportation Group Inc, a division of Bombardier, designed and built the Mark VI trains for Disneyworld. Disneyworld sued them and Bombardier over numerous problems (including massive power over-consumption) which required extensive modifications on-site to make the trains useable. Bombardier claimed nothing was wrong with the design and counter-sued for withheld payments. The results of this battle were not disclosed.

    The lesson here is to watch out for serious red flags when dealing with manufacturer liability and disclosure. I think you all remember that pompous attitude the TTC received from Bombardier when questioning them about the design for the new streetcar. We were treated like we owed them the contract and that we should have to rebuild every major intersection in the city to “accommodate” their existing car design. This is a clear indicator that we would end up holding the bag when the design experienced any problems whatsoever. Run away screaming, I say! I give Siemens a lot of credit for having the humility to publish on their website the story of the troubled early history of the Combino design and the steps taken to remedy them in the Combino Plus. I would be prepared to award the New Streetcar Contract based on that difference of attitude alone. We’ll see what happens tomorrow on that front.

  3. Ben says:

    Thanks for posting this Steve. Seems like the KL monorail and transit system has the same political issues many cities seem to have – in the fact that nothing gets done. On monorails.org, they claim that their system can handle 300,000 people per day with longer trains (http://monorails.org/tMspages/KLspecial13.html), but I assume this would be at a ridiculous amount of crowding with only 4 car carriages.

    Still, I believe the technology is very unappreciated. Hitachi’s systems in Japan, China, and soon South Korea can move almost as many people as heavy rail. And suspended designs from Mitsubishi and Siemens are perfect for our cooler climates.

    Even if Toronto never does go with monorail, I do hope a major city in North America or Europe eventually does use monorail for a mass transit solution (rather than a ‘people mover’), so that people can see the potential the technology has.

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    I will post the comments about the LRT line separately tho I gather that they will not be that different from the information that is common knowledge and available on Wikipedia.

    The monorail tires are actually part of the story – just after the monorail started operating in 2003 one of the safety tires actually fell from the vehicle and struck Mr. David Chelliah, a reporter for Bernama, Malaysia’s national new agency.

    Mr. Chelliah was seriously injured and launched a lawsuit which was just concluded (in his favour) last month.

    To Ben, the KL Monorail only currently uses 2 carriage trains and the congestion is unbelievable. Since there are only 2 carriage trains but stations have capacity for larger trains, the operator has become a bit innovative.

    At some of the busier stations, trains will now drop off passengers when they enter the station, then close the doors and move along the platform to pick up waiting passengers before leaving.

    I noticed these platform changes back in March when I was taking Admiral Adam on a short tour of KL’s public transport system back in March.

    To Kristian, there is a market for monorails in the most congested streets of cities where tunneling is too costly or just not possible. KL is one of these cities – they have only been able to build underground rail tunnels along the Klang River because most of the ground underneath KL is granite and there are many underground caverns as well.

    For those of you who are interested, the current KLCity 2020 Draft Local plan does envision 11 new lines criss-crossing KL, including 7 “monorail” lines (capacity/demand at 7500 ppdh), 3 “LRT” lines (capacity / demand at 14000-18000 ppdh) and 1 “MRT” line (capacity / demand at 56000 ppdh).

    Further information can be found at the links below:

    Overall plan – http://klcityplan2020.dbkl.gov.my/eis/index.php?page_id=67

    Land Use Planning – http://klcityplan2020.dbkl.gov.my/eis/?page_id=268

    Connectivity and Accessibility – http://klcityplan2020.dbkl.gov.my/eis/?page_id=269

    interactive map – http://klcityplan2020.dbkl.gov.my:81/dcpms/mapform.aspx

    Regards, Moaz Yusuf Ahmad

  5. Florian says:

    Interesting article, thanks.
    I’m still frustrated everyday when I take the monorail, compared to what I’ve been used to know before in Paris (RER A) and Singapore… Of course, the gabarit is not the same, but when it deals with punctuality and capacity, I think there’s still vast room for improvement here.

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