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Aerorail not the solution for Malacca traffic woes

The Melaka aerorail project, touted to be the first in Southeast Asia, has been announced by Chief Minister Mohd Ali Rustam. The public has been asked to participate in a three-month feedback period by using the online feedback portal or by going to the MBMB office in Ayer Keroh.

I believe that Malacca residents should go and check out the plans, because there are some very confusing statements coming from the chief minister.

He is quoted as saying, ‘We are building this transit system for public convenience and to improve the efficiency of the state's transport system,’ and yet, the aerorail is not an LRT as originally promised. And despite the huge cost of the aerorail, there are no planned improvements to the bus service in the state, no integrated public transport system, and no evidence to show that the aerorail is needed.

The chief minister also says that ‘Under phase one, the aerorail will begin near the Ayer Keroh toll plaza and proceed to Malacca Zoo, Malacca International Trade Centre (MITC), Malacca Mall, Malacca General Hospital, Malacca Sentral, Hang Tuah Mall, Malacca River and end at the Mahkota Medical Centre in Bandar Hilir.’

Extending the aerorail through the historical core area and buffer zone is unacceptable. Also, how will the aerorail from Jalan Tun Ali resolve the main areas of traffic congestion in Malacca town - namely Jalan Laksamana, Plaza Mahkota, Melaka Raya, Dataran Pahlawan and Kota Laksamana? Where is the solution for these heavily-congested areas?

Once again, I ask Malacca residents to go and see the plans and give the chief minister the feedback that he clearly needs. It is time to clear the air before we proceed to build the aerorail. I took a quick glance at the aerorail proposal to see what was being planned to improve public transport in Malacca.

My first observation was that the proposal had already changed from the original announcement. Instead of a line that would extend from the Ayer Keroh toll plaza to Jalan Laksamana and Banda Hilir, the aerorail would initially run from Jalan Tun Ali to the MBMB building. A second phase would extend the aerorail from the MBMB building to the Zoo Melaka in Ayer Keroh.

But therein lies a major problem. The areas of Malacca town with the greatest levels of traffic congestion are the areas of Jalan Laksamana, Banda Hilir, Plaza Mahkota, Dataran Pahlawan and Melaka Raya.

The proposed aerorail which will cost RM75 million per km will not go near any of these areas. Not only that, but the state is not planning any improvements to the existing bus service in these congested areas.

So what exactly is the RM75 million per km aerorail going to do for Malacca town? Take people from the government offices at Jalan Hang Tuah to the government offices at the MBMB building? Bring tourists to the zoo?

Well, at least we will be assured that the government is not spending taxpayers money here. It is the private company, Pyramid Express Sdn. Bhd. that will fork out the funds.

But if the private company cannot service their bank loans, then the government may have to plan a buyout or bailout package. Just as it happened with the Putera LRT and KL Monorail line.

Chief Minister Mohd Ali Rustam needs to realise that the best solution for congestion in Malacca is not the aerorail. It is an integrated public transport system that starts with an improved bus service.

In other words, instead of looking to the sky we have to build the system from the ground up.