By Jason Gerald | firstname.lastname@example.org
TRAM OPERATING ON NGV: RM272 million project will begin in February next year WITH the sounds of Christmas Jingles echoing in malls and popular tourist destinations, such as the Jonker Walk, and the curtains closing slowly but definitely for this year, the traffic in the city is starting to become a nightmare.
Unlike the previous months where traffic and people only flock the Historical City over the weekends, the current school holidays and the rush by almost everyone to strike out their remaining annual leave, the number of people and vehicles coming into Malacca and leaving has almost doubled in December.
Not only are the exits to Malacca via the Simpang Ampat, Ayer Keroh and Jasin exits along the North-South Expressway experiencing a crawl but almost all roads leading to the city centre is seeing a bumper to bumper traffic.
However, this is the small sacrifice that people in Malacca have to pay to ensure the Historical City remains a vibrant tourist destination, as tourism is one of the main income generators for the state coffers and many businesses involved in the hospitality industry.
And the traffic congestion would become part of history when the much awaited Malacca Tram, a RM272 million project undertaken by Mrails International Sdn Bhd in collaboration with Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI), begins in February next year. The tram, operating on liquefied natural gas (NGV), would be capable of ferrying 120 passengers at any one time at a speed of 40kph and would begin from its depot next to the Ayer Keroh toll plaza and head to the heritage zone of Malacca -- covering a distance of 40km and serving 11 of 14 major tourist spots.
Among the popular spots the tram will pass on its route are Hotel Seri Malaysia, Botanical Gardens, Melaka Zoo, Melaka International Trade Centre, Taman Muzaffar Shah, Pantai Hospital, Masjid Al-Azim, Hospital Melaka, Renaissance Hotel, Dataran Pahlawan, Hotel Mahkota, Harbour Club, Equatorial Hotel and Bukit Baru.
With the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) giving the "green light" for implementation of the tram project, although the law on the transport system is yet to be completed, the tram could very soon be seen plying the "tourism" routes in the state.
SPAD chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said technical work such as the building of tracks and depots could still proceed and "there is still time to formulate the law" for the tram.
Syed Hamid also recently said SPAD had held discussions with the Attorney-General's Chambers in drafting the law for tabling in Parliament before gazetting. SPAD would ask for a detailed report on security and maintenance aspects of the tram system from the project developer to ensure its smooth operation.
When the Malacca Tram starts its operations, in about a year after the project starts in February, it is expected that some 110,000 passengers will use the service on weekdays and 210,000 on weekends.
Mrails is working with CNR Tangshan Railway Vehicles Co Ltd, a Chinese-based locomotive manufacturer, for the building of the coaches.
The tram is a rail borne vehicle, lighter than a train and differs from other forms of locomotion, as the tracks are embedded in the street.
It is able to accommodate 120 passengers at one time, caters to the disabled because of its ground-level design and will operate at speeds of 40kph.
Ticket for the tram ride is priced at RM2 for a single journey but students and senior citizens ride for free. A day pass, priced at RM5 is also available.
When launching the Tram project in February, last year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak stressed that despite the nation's quest for greater modernisation, emphasis must be placed on environmentally-friendly technology to ensure sustainability and low carbon emissions.
He said long-term environmental conservation efforts were important and should not be compromised at the cost of development and that the Malacca Tram project was iconic, not only for the state, but for the nation as well.
This "next generation tram" is the world's first environmentally-friendly tram that runs on NGV engine. Najib said the project was suitable to be introduced here as it was in line with the state's slogan "Where It All Began".