GEORGE TOWN (May 13, 2008): By Opalyn Mok
The government is looking into ways to improve crisis management by the various state departments, especially those related to tourism matters like Penang Hill.
Komtar assemblyman and political secretary to the Chief Minister Ng Wei Aik admitted that there were weaknesses in the way the two breakdowns in the funicular railway train service were managed last month.
"For this, we apologise for whatever shortcomings especially in the way we handled it and how we responded to it," he told TheSun today in response to a complaint by a tourist who was one of those stranded on Penang Hill.
"We are now working at improving crisis management and upgrading the whole system so that we can better respond to such situations at the shortest time possible," he said.
"We are also in the process of hiring a full-time technician to be based at the Penang Hill stations and also deploy technicians from the Public Works Department to ensure that there is a technician on standby at all times.
"We would like to apologise to all the tourists and passengers who were left stranded during those two incidents," he said.
The funicular railway train system was disrupted by a cable problem on April 15 and again on April 23 by a burnt capacitor in the electrical panel after it was struck by lightning.
Ng had claimed that in the second incident, all 102 passengers who were stranded were ferried down the hill in four 4WD vehicles at around 10.30pm.
A 60-year-old tourist from the United Kingdom, David Robinson, sent an email to theSun claiming that not all the passengers were taken down by 4WD vehicles but had to walk through a jungle track in the dark to the next platform in April 23 incident.
"We all had to walk down very narrow steps in the rain after two hours of waiting without knowing what had happened," he wrote.
He claimed that after reaching the platform, they were ushered out to a dark unlit jungle track to walk down to another platform before they took another train down to the bottom station.
"When we got to the foot of the hill, there was no one in authority to apologise and to explain the incident. I was very disappointed at the poor behaviour of the authority," he said.
He added that the incident had "coloured his enjoyment of the country" and that the authorities in charge of Penang Tourism need a wake-up call to put this right.
He suggested that there should be a safe and lighted pathway to be in place if it was the only alternative to access the middle station.
"There should also be polite explanations to passengers and apologies for the incident," he added