Post by Nick Chu
In our never-ending quest to bring you the best and most unique transport stories, we were recently informed by a colleague of a curious transit system in Malaysia named the Malacca Monorail.
Being true transit geeks (and huge fans of the Simpsons), we had no choice but to personally visit it ourselves.
This 1.6km, 2 station system is located in Malacca City — a World UNESCO Heritage Site and home to half a million residents. Today, the state is a huge tourist destination and welcomed a reported “13.7 million” visitors last year.
So as a way to add recreational infrastructure to the city, the RM15.9 million (~USD$5 million) monorail first opened in October 2010. Unfortunately, in an uncanny resemblance to the Springfield Monorail episode, the system infamously broke down during it first day of operation!
In fact, during its first year, it broke down a total of 21 times as it suffered from a range of mechanical issues — not the least of which included loose door screws, software glitches and engine problems.
Perhaps the most absurd discovery was that the system was found to be inoperative during rainfall. This would probably be a non-issue if the monorail were built in a desert — except unfortunately for the Malacca Monorail, it’s located in the tropics where precipitation is a common occurrence.
And instead of selecting experienced manufacturers, decision-makers chose a little-known company from China called Unis Technology Company Limited (no word on whether these guys wore bowler hats and sang a song).
Undeterred that they’ve already made a bad investment, officials went on to announce the second phase of the monorail at RM13.2 million (~USD$4.1 million) in December 2011.
Not surprisingly, despite its scheduled completion date of February 2013, the second phase of the system was never fully built. Interestingly enough, if you sail down the river today, you can actually see some of the unfinished columns as a reminisce of the ambitious yet unsuccessful project.
So while it was originally designed to provide tourists with a 30 minute ride alongside the Malacca River, the entire system is essentially now a white elephant.
Even though I’m still failing to come to grips as to how a real-life Springfield Monorail came to be, the Malacca system does offer a very important lesson for all future transportation planners: if you choose to build transport infrastructure, please, please, please remember to choose someone with a proven track record.
But hold on, perhaps I’m missing something in all this. Could this have been preplanned?
On the flip side, a broken down monorail could be a huge attraction itself. And for a country obsessed with world records, the Chief Minister himself even quipped, “We almost made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for encountering countless breakdowns.”
Now that’s an achievement worth getting recognition for!
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