LRT from Alor Setar to Kuah in Langkawi? Suhaimi Abdullah lands in social media hot soup.
Langkawi MP Suhaimi Abdullah of Bersatu and the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition defeated two time Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the last general election.
Suhaimi previously served as a senator before standing for election for the first time in November 2022 (GE15).
Despite it being his electoral debut, he managed to defeat Langkawi’s incumbent by polling 25,463 votes against Dr Mahathir’s 4,566. Dr Mahathir won Langkawi in 2018 by securing an 8,893 vote-majority.
Suffice to say, Dr Mahathir needs no introduction. In fact you can go anywhere in the world and chances are you’ll find someone on the street who knows who Dr Mahathir is. Not to mention at his age, he managed to rally the then-opposition to come together and subsequently agree to make him prime minister again.
Langkawi in Parliament
Suhaimi has made our eyebrows go down the Ziana Zain road in the past.
Remember his concern over the safety of the Parliament’s wifi connection?
“Does our Dewan have the security that prevents (others) from spying and eavesdropping on what we talk about in this Dewan?” he had asked.
This was particularly funny for many because the entire Dewan Rakyat proceeding is livestreamed for all to see.
Now he moots MRT
In Parliament yesterday, even Transport Minister Anthony Loke couldn’t be sure if he had heard correctly.
Suhaimi told Loke in Parliament that there has been a suggestion to build a train from Alor Setar to Kuah, much like the MRT in Kuala Lumpur.
“I’m not sure I heard it correctly, from Alor Setar to Kuah using MRT, because this has to cross the sea,” Loke remarked.
On 13 September, Suhaimi read out a question in Parliament, allegedly from someone named Bazlan (we’re not exactly sure how to spell the name that was mentioned) in Langkawi.
Bazlan had apparently asked Suhaimi to ask the minister in charge (transport) to solve the ferry situation in Langkawi.
“If Penang gets RM10 billion, can we ask for LRT train in Langkawi, from Alor Setar to Kuah, don’t ask for a bridge Datuk, then Langkawi will have a lot of traffic jam,” Suhaimi said, reading out Bazlan’s message to him.
That was last week.
Yesterday, Bazlan’s suggestion was a question posed by Suhaimi to the Transport Minister which stumped Loke.
It’s okay though, we decided to try and work out the feasibility of this suggestion, that if it does become a reality, would be a GARGANTUAN construction project.
Alor Setar to Kuah, via LRT/MRT
First of all, let’s take a look at a straight line distance between Alor Setar on the mainland and Kuah on Langkawi island.
According to Google Maps, the distance is roughly 61.1km. This is both a combination of land and sea.
Trains on land is not a big deal. So we’ll just focus on the sea part of this suggestion.
Using Kuala Kedah as the starting point for the sea train route, we will end it at a point in Langkawi near the Penarak Jetty, closest to Kuah.
This covers a distance of 51.5km across the sea.
Just to give you an idea how long the train tracks would have to be, whether over the sea or via an undersea tunnel, the Penang Bridge is 13.5km in length.
Not to say that a 51.5km over (or under) the sea track is an impossible feat but even the Penang Undersea Tunnel project which would have linked Gurney Drive on the island with Bagan Ajam on the mainland only spans 7.2km.
The Penang LRT project which would eventually connect the island to the mainland, assuming the interchange station is in George Town, would see an even shorter connect to Perai as a straight line measure is about four to five kilometres.
Longest in the world
The longest sea-crossing bridge is the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. It is 55-km long.
It was opened to the public in 2018 and cost USD18.8 billion to build. Construction took about eight years.
As for the longest sea crossing train, it is the Eurostar in Europe. The Eurostar crosses the English Channel in Folkestone, south of England and Calais in northern France.
Called the Channel Tunnel, 37.9km is under the English Channel. This makes it the world’s longest undersea tunnel.
Yes, trains crossing the sea is not unheard of. Our very own KTM train crosses the Tebrau Straits between Johor Bahru and Singapore. However it is a mere five-minute train ride which crosses the Johor-Singapore Causeway.
So can or not?
To construct a light rail transit (LRT) or a mass rapid transit (MRT) connect between Alor Setar and Kuah would require more thought and care.
It may not be wise to use a tram and light rail concept for the distance considering the Eurostar involves a high-speed rail service.
Also to consider is the fact that the train would be crossing the Straits of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest straits.
There have been talks of a bridge linking the Peninsular and Langkawi, but that involved the state of Perlis because the distance from Perlis to the island is considerably shorter than Kedah to the island.
In 2010, the proposed bridge was estimated to cost RM130 billion. At the time, Dr Mahathir who had retired from politics opposed the idea.
“Langkawi must remain as an island and unsuitable to be turned into a land mass,” was what he said.
The proposed bridge would be 48km in length.
Even in the late 90s there was a proposal to build a bridge from Perlis to Langkawi spanning 20km at a cost of RM2 billion. Dr Mahathir who was prime minister at the time was not agreeable.
As for the train, Suhaimi is not the first person to moot the idea.
Back in January, tourism players in Langkawi, in calling for the Transport Ministry to solve the low ferry frequency, put forth a suggestion for the setting up of a Special Committee.
They said the committee could also study whether it was relevant to build a bridge or railway connecting Langkawi and the mainland.
So in conclusion, Suhaimi’s train suggestion is not as far out as his concern that “outsiders could be listening to what MPs were talking about in the Dewan”.
However, the fact that his suggestion was for an “LRT/MRT from Alor Setar to Kuah” resulted in backlash that could have been avoided had the suggestion been presented with a proper proposal.
A direct connection from Alor Setar to Kuah makes no sense considering there are other closer points from the mainland to connect to the island, such as Kuala Perlis.