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Penang Transport Master Plan

A map of the Penang Transport Master Plan, which includes the proposed George Town Tram System.

The George Town Tram System, under the Penang Transport Master Plan, is a proposed tram system that will run within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site[1].

A total of six stations have been planned along a two kilometre-route that runs through the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site. Due to building restrictions within the UNESCO Site, the tram system is preferable; bringing back the trams into George Town will also invoke and rekindle the nostalgic colonial era when trams once criss-crossed George Town.

If approved by the Malaysian federal government, George Town could see trams returning to its streets by 2017, making the city the first in Malaysia to operate trams[2].

George Town tram, Penang

An electric tram in George Town in the early 20th. century.

History

Towards the end of the 20th. century, George Town had arguably the best transportation system in all of British Malaya. A major reason was the town's tram system, which began operations in the 1880s[3]. At the time, a Mr. Gardiner was granted a concession by the Straits Settlement authorities to operate a light Kerr-Stuart steam locomotive between Weld Quay and Air Itam Road.

Old tram tracks, George Town, Penang

Old tram tracks can still be seen at the junction between Chulia Street and Penang Road in George Town.

After the introduction of electricity in George Town at the start of the 20th. century, the George Town Municipal Council began to lay out and construct an electric tram network in the town. The electric tram made its debut in 1905, giving birth to the George Town Municipal Tramway (GTMT), which was tasked with the running of the tram system.

Prangin Road, George Town, Penang (old2)

A trolleybus at the junction between Prangin Road and Carnavon Street in George Town.

The trams were gradually replaced by trolleybuses in the 1920s, due to the poor state of the tram tracks and lack of spare parts for maintenance, which was exacerbated by World War 1. Motorbuses were brought in to replace some of the tram services, but in 1925, the trolleybus was introduced, ushering in a new era of trolleybuses in George Town.

Rationale

Trams were chosen particularly for the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site, where building restrictions are currently in effect. As the restrictions prevent the construction of any structure above 18 metres, these effectively rule out most other rail systems.

A tram system has numerous advantages, such as the trams' low profile and the ease of boarding a street-level tram[2]. In addition, as George Town used to operate a tram system, bringing back the trams will invoke and rekindle the nostalgic colonial feel of the city. As the Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng, puts it, "reviving this system will make Penang unique and romantic"[1].

However, the proposed tram route will not use the original 1900s tram route in George Town. Instead, the much shorter proposed route will run along the southern and the eastern parts of the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Alignment

<imap map-id="20455"></imap>Six stops have been identified along the two kilometre tram route within the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site[4].

Prangin Road, George Town, Penang (2)

The proposed western terminus of the George Town Tram System is to be located here - the junction between Prangin Road and Carnavon Street, in front of Prangin Mall.

The actual proposed western terminus of the George Town tram route will be at the junction between Prangin Road and Carnavon Street, right in front of Prangin Mall and a short distance away from the planned KOMTAR Interchange at the former Sia Boey Market. This will enable easy access to the three other proposed rail lines on Penang Island - the Bayan Lepas LRT, the Air Itam Monorail and the Tanjung Tokong Monorail.

Swettenham Pier Penang

Swettenham Pier, George Town. This direct gateway into the heart of George Town has been earmarked as the eastern terminus of the George Town Tram Service.

Meanwhile, the site of the proposed eastern terminus has been selected - at Swettenham Pier. This will benefit tourists who arrive in George Town by cruise ships docked at Swettenham Pier.

Chulia Street, George Town, Penang

Chulia Street, George Town, where two of the six tram stops will be located.

Furthermore, another proposed stop at the Penang Ferry Terminal, where the Penang Ferry Service links George Town and the town of Butterworth on the Malay Peninsula, will also benefit both islanders and mainlanders boarding the ferries into and out of George Town.

Current Status

In 2015, it was reported that, once approval from the Malaysian Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), the Malaysian federal government agency in charge of the provision of public transportation, has been granted, trams could return to George Town as early in 2017[2]. As of April 2016, it is still unconfirmed whether the Malaysian federal government will approve establishment of the tram system.

However, the Penang state government, which has been mooting the Penang Transport Master Plan since 2013, has included the proposed George Town Tram System into the plan. It is understood that the Penang state government will continue to press for the approval to operate the tram system.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2015/08/15/trams-making-comeback-under-rm27bil-penang-plan/
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1501842
  3. Francis, R., Ganley, C., 2006. Penang Trams, Trolleybuses & Railways: Municipal Transport History, 1880s-1963. Areca Books.
  4. http://paultan.org/2016/03/04/penang-public-transport-plan-revealed-lrt-brt-monorail-and-trams-to-connect-island-to-mainland/

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