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Monorail operator issued licence despite accidents (Updated)

(Updated 6:10pm, 1 April 2009)

KUALA LUMPUR, 1 April 2009: Although many accidents happened before the city’s monorail service was opened to the public, the operator handling the project was still issued a licence to start operations, the High Court was told today.

Malaysian Railway Department principal assistant director (Civil Engineering) Mohd Azmi Zakaria told the court the licence was issued to the concessionaire of the monorail service after engineers from the department had carried out the necessary checks.

“A report was then submitted to the Transport Minister and after all conditions were satisfied, the licence was issued with the hope that no future accidents would happen,” he said. 

Mohd Azmi said he had knowledge that there were many prior accidents before the safety wheel of a monorail train on a test run came off but he could not remember the accidents that had happened before that.

Mohd Azmi said this when cross-examined by lawyer Steven Thiru, who is representing David Chelliah, a senior journalist with Bernama who filed a RM5 million negligence suit among others against the operator of the monorail service.

David, 47, was seriously injured when the wheel that came off hit him while he was crossing Jalan Sultan Ismail on 16 Aug 2002.

He named Monorail Technology, KL Monorail Systems Sdn Bhd and the director-general of the Railway Department as the defendants and has waited six years and seven months for his case to be disposed off by the court.

The latest hearing before Judicial Commissioner Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal that began yesterday, is to determine liability for the incident.

Asked by Thiru whether Mohd Azmi still remembered two accidents which happened before and after the incident in Jalan Sultan Ismail, whereby in July 2002 a monorail train on a test run collided with another that was also on a test run and in November 2002 when a tin of paint fell from above at a monorail area, Mohd Azmi said he did not but reiterated that he was aware many accidents happened.

To another question as to whether the department had issued warning notices or road warnings by putting up safety cones to warn the public about the test runs of monorail trains, Mohd Azmi said the department did not although it was empowered to do so under Section 16 of the Railway Act.

Mohd Azmi, who was the sole witness from the department, also told the court that when the monorail trains were tested, engineers from the department would be present to ensure the test runs went smoothly, but not at all times.

“Sometimes they did not attend (the test runs). This was because consultants had also been specially hired for this purpose,” he said.

Mohd Azmi also agreed with Thiru’s suggestion that three weeks before the incident involving David, the safety wheel that came off was taken out from the monorail train and later re-fixed.

However, he said he could not remember the reason for this.

He also agreed with Thiru that under Section 7 of the same Act, the department was responsible at all times to ensure the safety of the public when the monorail trains were tested and after they were put into service.

Mohd Azmi, however, disagreed with Thiru’s suggestion that the department only took up an active role regarding the project after it commenced services to the public, saying the department’s officers carried out monthly or bi-monthly checks at the project site.

He also disagreed with a suggestion by Thiru that the findings of a committee set up on Aug 28, 2002 to probe the safety wheel incident indicated there were design weaknesses in the monorail train concerned.

Harmindar adjourned the case to tomorrow enbale the two parties make their submissions.— Bernama


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