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Monorail's Ups & downs

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Public Transport

Monorails or for that matter most of the mass-transits have not been churning out profits. Japan is the only unique exception due to their much higher standards of living & people's higher affordability levels to pay fares. Thus monorails have been profitable there. In fact, monorail makers have been forced to cut manufacturing costs for systems & are offering to install & run their systems as there had been no takers. Some examples :


The project was originally awarded to MTrans Holdings of Malaysia. The MoU with MTrans was subsequently cancelled, & the project was awarded to a Singapore consortium (Omnico), which first proposed Hitachi technology & later switched to S.Korean Maglev technology. By July 2005, another consortium appeared on the scene with Siemens technology being offered. This merry-go-round of firms had led to several legal challenges which have further delayed the project. Presently, there are derelict stumps that have been put up for an elevated monorail system, but no monorail has emerged, as yet.

Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya

The Kuala Lumpur monorail (only 8.6 km) took five years to build. The system started with an accident - a journalist (David Cheliah), was seriously injured. Mr.Cheliah was a pedestrian below the system when part of the undercarriage fell from the train.

Due to the KL monorail’s cost structure & limited capacity, the system has had to rely heavily on operational subsidies. During the system’s first 8 months of operations, operational debts were US$ 13.6 million. In May 2007, the Kuala Lumpur monorail system went into receivership after KLIG failed to repay a loan to a Malaysian bank. The system is now in the hands of Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Bhd. In the wake of the system’s bankruptcy, the public sector will now be responsible for taking over the system’s debt of approximately US$ 266.5 million.

MTrans also received a contract for a new system in Putrajaya, the new capital city of Malaysia. Some construction work began in 2005 but was subsequently halted due to financial problems. The construction pillars of the abandoned system remain in place in Putrajaya.

Las Vegas

The Las Vegas monorail also had parts of it's carriages fall off to the ground on two occasions. Further, doorways opened while in operation along an open portion of the track. The system then underwent two costly system closures while Bombardier, the system manufacturers, sorted out the technical problems. The Las Vegas monorail is currently embroiled in a financial crisis. The system cost a reported US$ 101.6 million per kilometre for the 6.4 kilometre corridor. Each day the system is losing approximately US$ 70,000. To improve the financial basis for the system, the operators raised fares in 2006 to US$ 5 per single trip. While this marginally improved total revenues, the higher fare reduced the number of customers able to afford the system.


Seattle’s monorail system was to connect the West Seattle community of Ballard with central city destinations, including businesses and sports stadiums. The planned 22.4 kilometre corridor was to be just the first of five monorail lines operating in the city. The project was eventually de-railed due to escalating costs, which included US$ 2 billion in construction costs and US$ 9 billion in financing costs. In a subsequent public referendum in November 2005, sixty-five percent of Seattle’s voters moved to cancel the project. By order of the City Council, the project office has been disbanded, although millions of dollars was spent on planning a system that was never developed.

Indian cities might benefit due to all of this - Monorail makers are as desperate to perfect & sell their systems as are city planners to reduce congestion levels in our cities. Thus, the coming together & partnerships beneficial to both - only time will tell.

For metros, only hong-kong is profitable.


Vasanth's picture

Last mile connectivity - Key to success

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Here in Bangalore, we are desperate for a ROW transit because of the messy traffic. People want to travel faster and without tireness.  Even with Metro/Mono in place, last mile connectivity is the problem. If the last mile connectivity improves, everyone will start using Metro/Mono combination.

I am just thinking if Government starts planning for the last mile connectivity (dedicated/shared) using standard company taxies like Hertz / Meru/ Easy along with the Metro/Mono, it would be very convenient to all. Standard Auto companies should also start to work from the Metro/Mono stations.  I was also discussing earlier about Metro Vajra just like Vayu Vajra connecting every localities nearby Metro station.

Srivatsava's picture

Metro Vajra for last-mile link??'American diamonds' better!!

134 users have liked.

Sorry Vasanth,

       'Metro Vajra' for last mile connectivity seems a good thought. Give it a little more thought, considering the areas far away from bus services nearby your area and you will realise it is not possible on the narrow lanes in Bangalore.

       But, I guess the 'American Diamonds' can do the job better!! The Swaraj Mazdas are much smaller to fit into some narrow lanes, have lower capacity (perfect for most mid-level to low-end residential areas). They can run at decent speeds on those narrow lanes, and take more people from the narrow lanes and feed them into a Bus/Metro service.

       Metro Vajra, or any other full-sized bus, may be feasible only it doesnt restrict itself into a locality i.e. they should not be loop busses covering smal areas. Yesterday, I was travelling on the West of Chord road and I realised that for areas like Basaveshwaranagar to be connected to metro stations, we should not have loop buses from Vijaynagar. Instead, it should rather be a Vijaynagar to Malleshwaram passing through Magadi road, Basaveshwaranagar, Navrang, Rajajinagar. Such a route wuold connect stations on different Metro lines, without passing along the Metro line or any of the existing bus services. Currently, Vayu Vajras from MCTC & Padmanabhanagar operates on the route I have mentioned.

-Srivatsava V

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