GEORGE TOWN: The companies responsible for upgrading the Penang Hill funicular train service have finally spoken up and criticised the state-owned Penang Hill Corporation (PHC) for making incorrect and misleading statements on the May 3 incident, which saw the train service halted due to a mechanical failure caused by collision with stray dogs.
In a joint statement issued here yesterday, Alam Langkawi Sdn Bhd and Garaventa AG Switzerland also refuted PHC's allegations that it had yet to be given an inventory of spare parts to manage the train service.
"We are not at all amazed with the adverse publicity, misleading and incorrect defensive statements that have been made by the PHC management, namely, its general manager Lee Kah Choon, operations manager Ahmad Chik and independent contractor Eric Kohler.
"PHC has been blaming the dogs, contractor, manufacturer, coaches, design, spare parts and saboteurs.
"Now, we need to put the true facts on record. We are not politicians and our only aim is public security and safety first," Alam Langkawi director Junaidah Mansor said.
Junaidah said Garaventa AG Switzerland, which was the specialist contractor for the project, had more than 120 years of track record and had built thousands of cable cars and funicular trains all over the world.
Garaventa was the same company that constructed the first Penang Hill funicular train 87 years ago.
She explained that the railway upgrading project was designed and supervised by the Public Works Department (PWD) in strict compliance with international standards.
"All parties concerned had meticulously vetted the design before construction, and upon completion, intensive and rigorous trial runs and testing were conducted to certify the system was fit for operations.
"The same coaches, undercarriage and power rail design have been used for funicular installations all over the world without problems."
Junaidah also dismissed PHC management's claims that they had not received the inventory of spare parts, making it difficult to respond to emergencies like the May 3 incident.
She said the inventory had been handed over to PHC, along with a full set of operation and maintenance manuals on March 24 and Feb 26, respectively, witnessed by the Tourism Ministry and PWD officials.
The PHC had claimed that it was not given the materials since the railway service was handed over to them on March 20.
On PHC's claims that the day-long shutdown of the hill railway on May 3 could have been shortened to less than an hour if critical spare parts were made available immediately, Junaidah said Alam Langkawi had helped PHC to repair the malfunctioning part and reinstated the services within 24 hours.
"The repair works could never have been carried out within an hour as alleged by the independent contractor engaged by PHC.
"It is standard operating procedure that in the event of an incident or breakdown, full damage and safety assessment must be executed before the service is opened to the public again."
She added that repair work was the responsibility of the PHC but there was no experienced staff available to lead their technicians.
Junaidah also revealed that contrary to PHC's statement, all the spare parts were available and if not for the assistance and fast response of Alam Langkawi engineers and Garaventa, the repairs would not have taken place so fast.
"In fact, this is evident from pictures that were splashed in most newspapers showing our engineers executing the repairs.
"There was also a photo which showed PHC staff riding on the exposed goods carrier in blatant disregard for safety and standard operating procedures.
"The repair works were not hampered by a lack of spare parts, but rather, by lack of proper management response and operations experience of the PHC management."
Junaidah said the company had many times stressed to PHC to engage only people with the relevant hands-on experience and competency in funicular train systems to hold important positions like the operations manager and independent contractors.
Junaidah also revealed that contrary to what the PHC management had stated, neither Alam Langkawi or Garaventa had been invited to participate or conduct an investigation into the May 3 incident.
However, she said during the course of their own investigations, they had observed various operational lapses and shortcomings on the part of the PHC, and the PWD had been informed accordingly.
"PHC is strongly advised to look into their own shortcomings and take urgent steps to improve the technical and competency aspects of their operations before any further untoward incident happens again.
Read the full article:http://www.nst.com.my/articles/13fsx/Article/