2 March 2023
Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) has suspended its ageing Aerotrain operations at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, which runs between the main terminal building and the satellite building, until further notice, amid backlash over frequent breakdowns.
The latest incident saw the 25-year-old Aerotrain service experiencing breakdown due to mechanical and electronic failures, resulting in 114 passengers being stranded mid-way on the tracks on Wednesday (March 1).
“We do sincerely acknowledge that the aerotrain has gone beyond the serviceability level. Today, we categorically say that we do not want our passengers to go through this again. In the interest of passengers’ safety, MAHB is taking a decisive move to suspend the Aerotrain service until further notice,” MAHB managing director Datuk Iskandar Mizal Mahmood told a media briefing on Thursday.
In Wednesday’s incident, MAHB had dispatched a second train to transport the stranded passengers, but it also experienced technical issues that resulted in the passengers having to walk from the main terminal building to the satellite building. The airport operator said it had prepared accommodation and reimbursed tickets to passengers who had missed their flights that day.
Iskandar Mizal said based on the MAHB engineering team’s preliminary assessment of the trains, it found that there were faulty internal wiring issues, along with a host of other mechanical and electronic issues that caused both trains to stop mid-track.
“For us to really determine the entire spectrum of it may involve dismantling all parts including below the platform of the train. This is a 25-year-old asset, there are some parts that are not even supported (anymore) and even the original equipment manufacturer parts are no longer available,” said Iskandar Mizal.
In the interim period, he said MAHB will operate 18 shuttle buses and increase the frequency and buses during peak hours if the need arises. Both the Aerotrain and shuttle buses have the capacity to carry over 150 passengers.
On Sept 6, 2017, MAHB faced similar issues with the Aerotrain.
No plan to retire the trains
However, Iskandar Mizal said it is still premature to say if the engineering team is able to revive the trains before its Aerotrain replacement programme scheduled to start this month kicks in, adding that it is not yet at the inflection point to retire the ageing assets as the management is still looking at alternative ways to keep the trains running. The new Aerotrain will be able to carry 90 passengers per car, 270 passengers per train and 5,400 passengers per hour per direction.
“If we are able to salvage the trains and bring them back to operation, we will,” he added.
“Being a responsible management, we will have to try to do our best to ensure that our passengers are able to experience a seamless journey at KLIA. It will be very irresponsible of us to just say, ‘That’s it. Done.’
“Although the buses are already there, we do acknowledge that we get complaints. We have to make sure we exhaust every possible alternative. We will continue to look into rectification, if at all possible,” he noted.
In December 2021, Pestech International Bhd had won the tender from MAHB for the development of the automated people mover (APM) aerotrain project and associated works in KLIA for RM742.95 million. Development of the project will take three years, starting from March 14, 2022 and completion in March 2025.
Shares of MAHB closed unchanged at RM6.90 per share on Thursday, giving it a market capitalisation of RM11.45 billion. Its share price has risen 5.02% year to date.
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