Penang Hill Railway

The new Penang Hill Funicular TrainThe new Penang Hill Funicular Train (26 April 2011)

Penang Hill Railway is the railway track of the Penang Hill Funicular Train that goes from Air Itam to Penang Hill. The train service starts from the foot of the hill at Air Itam.

The idea of a railway line up Penang Hill was put forth as early as 1897, before motor vehicle was even introduced to Penang Island. It was built by the British between 1906 and 1923 at a cost of 1.5 million Straits Dollars, so that the British officers can journey up the hill for convalescence or simply to relax and enjoy the cooler air. The funicular railway was only open to the public on 21 October 1923. The 2007 meter (1 mile 435 yard) journey is the most convenient way up Penang.

The new coaches of the Penang Hill RailwayThe new coaches of the Penang Hill Railway (6 November 2010)

Penang Hill Railway on Google Maps Street View

Updates on the Penang Hill Railway Upgrading Project

3 May, 2013:
The train will be non operational from 10-12 June, 2013 for half-yearly maintenance works.

Saturday 3 March 2012
The new train schedule effective 10 March 2012 is as follows:

Weekdays: 6:30 am - 10:00* pm
Weekends/Public Holidays/School Holidays: 6:30 am - 11:00* pm
* Departure of last train from top station. Ticket counter closes 1 hour before the last train down.

Malaysians, Return Trip Adults (aged 13-54): RM8
Children (aged 3-12): RM4
Seniors (55 and above): RM4
Malaysian Students: RM4
Families (2 adults, 2 children): RM18
Single Journey Fare (all ages): RM5
Monthly Pass: RM24

Penang Hill Railway TicketsPenang Hill Railway Tickets (1 November, 2014)

Ticket scanning, Penang Hill RailwayTicket scanning, Penang Hill Railway (1 November, 2014)

Monday, 30 May, 2011
Now that the Penang Hill Railway is running smoothly, the Penang Hill Jeep Service has been discontinued.

Penang Hill Lower Railway Station Square at Air Itam (23 January 2005)

Update Thursday, 22 April, 2011
Members of Non-Governmental Organisations were given a chance to take a ride on the new coaches of the Penang Hill Railway on Wednesday, 21 April, around 3:00 pm. At that function, director of Penang Hill Corporation Datuk Lee Kah Choon announced that the funicular train service will reopen to the public from 25 August, and will fun for charity on the first six days.

Fare during the charity rides is set at RM10 per person while children aged 12 and below can ride for free. The proceeds collected will go to the Penang Welfare Department.

Fares for the Penang Hill Railway from 1 May, 2011

The fares for riding the Penang Hill Railway funicular train is set as follows from 1 May, 2011. The trains will operate daily from 6:30 am to 9:00 pm.

Malaysians, Return Trip
Adults (aged 13-54): RM8
Children (aged 3-12): RM4
Seniors (55 and above): RM4
Malaysian Students: RM4
Families (2 adults, 2 children): RM18
Single Journey Fare (all ages): RM5
Monthly Pass: RM24

Adults (aged 13 and above): RM30
Children (aged 3-12): RM15
Families (2 adults, 2 children): RM70

Train Schedule
From 7 June, 2011, the train schedule is as follows:
Weekdays: 6:30 am to 8:00 pm
Weekends, Public Holidays & School Holidays: 6:30 am to 9:00 pm

Old Penang Hill Railway carriage at the Penang MuseumOld Penang Hill Railway carriage at the Penang Museum (23 April, 2009)

6 November 2010:
A soft launch was held for the new coaches of the Penang Hill Railway. The launch was officiated by the Tourism Minister, Dr Ng Yen Yen. During the soft launch, Dr Ng pointed out that the Federal Government is spending RM70 to upgrade the railway up Penang Hill.

With this upgrade to bring more visitors up the hill, she said that she hopes the state itself will carry out environmentally-sensitive development of the hill, now that the Federal Government has funded the upgrade. She also wanted to see an increase in tourist dollars spent in Malaysia from the present RM1 billion a week to eventually RM3 billion a week.

During the soft launch, it is also announced that the new trains will only be operational in March 2011, a delay of half a year from the projected completion date as announced in February 2010.

21 Feb 2010:
The existing funicular train of the Penang Hill Railway makes its final run on the 87-year-old track. After today, the system will stop for a RM63 million upgrading project. The upgrading of the Penang Hill Railway will take seven months. When completed, the new trains will take visitors up Penang Hill non stop, unlike the present system where visitors have to change trains at the middle station.

According to Dr Ng Yen Yen, the Tourism Minister, the coaches will be air-conditioned and will have a glass roof to allow better viewing of the surrounding scenery. According to Lim Hock Seng, the Penang Public Works, Utilities and Transportation Committee chairman, the new system will join the two tracks into one, and a new passing loop will be built some 100 meters above the present middle station. The train will still be able to stop at the substations such as Claremont, Viaduct and Moniot Road.

The new system will have two coaches each capable of taking 100 passengers. The projected hourly capacity will be 1000 compared to 250 passengers with the old system. Journey time will be 10 minutes rather than 30 minutes on the old system.

The old Penang Hill Railway Station of 1923 (23 January 2005).

17 December, 2009:
The railway is running again, but not for long. The government will be upgrading it to make the ride smoother and faster. Hence, the railway will be closed from 22 February 2010 to 30 October 2010.

September, 2008
I am updating this article to inform users that as of now (Sept 2008), the Penang Hill Railway is still not in operation. It broke down in June 2008, and until today, the train service has not resumed due to several issues, not least of which, the reluctance of the federal government to release funds for the repair.

Until the 2010 upgrade, a journey up Penang Hill took about half an hour, and required changing trains at mid station. This was due to the difference in gradient. The lower section, which was 907 meters in length, had a steepness of 50.5% while the higher section, with a distance of 1313 meters, had a steepness of 51.3%. The system operated on a single track with passing loop, with two carriages one going up while the other coming down. There they meet, the track forks into two to accommodate the two carriages.

In 1923, a new railway track was built to replace the one from 1906. With it, a "new" station was also built. The original carriages which date from 1923 were replaced with newer ones in 1977. One of these carriages is now displayed at the Penang State Museum.

The old train in operation at mid-station (5 March 2005)

Update 5 May 2011
The Penang Hill funicular train ran for only 8 days, and then it broke down. As a result, 300 passengers were stuck at the top of the hill, and had to be taken down by alternative means. The cause of the disruption has not been confirmed yet. A stray dog may have collided with the train, according to some reports, but sabotage has yet to be ruled out. According to Datuk Lee Kah Choon, general manager of Penang Hill Corporation (PHC), there was a mechanical failure caused by a "collision with an object" at 4:30 pm on Tuesday. It is not confirmed whether the "object" is a stray dog.

Penang Hill Corporation has put up signages informing the public of the closure. The repair to the trains is expected to be delayed due to lack of spare parts from the train supplier.

Getting there

The Penang Hill Railway Station is located at the end of Jalan Bukit Bendera. You can reach it by taking Rapid Penang Bus 204 Route">204. Click here to view the Rapid Penang Bus Routes.

Nearby Sights

The following are the sights near the Railway Station at the foot of Penang Hill:

  1. Jade Emperor's Pavilion: Temple to one of the most important deity in the Taoist pantheon. From the Penang Hill Railway Station, walk down Jalan Bukit Bendera until you see a lane with an arch on the left. That's the arch for the temple. Enter through the arch, and follow the road uphill to the Jade Emperor's Pavilion.
  2. Bat Cave Temple: A unique Tua Pek Kong Temple built into a cave and inhabited by bats. The route there is almost the same as to the Jade Emperor's Pavilion. From the Penang Hill Railway Station, walk down Jalan Bukit Bendera until you see a lane with an arch on the left. That's the arch for the Jade Emperor's Pavilion. Enter through the arch, and follow the road uphill. Before arriving at the Jade Emperor's Pavilion, you will see a junction to the right. Turn right and follow that lane. It leads to the Bat Cave Temple
The following are sights near the Railway Station at the top of Penang Hill:

  1. Bel Retiro: The most prestigious property on Penang Hill
  2. Bellevue Penang Hill Hotel: Only functioning hotel on Penang Hill
  3. Convalescent Bungalow: One of the oldest rest houses on Penang Hill
  4. Penang Hill Canopy Walk: Abandoned walkway suspended among the trees
  5. Penang Hill Hindu Temple: Temple to Lord Murugan
  6. Penang Hill Mosque: Local mosque for the Muslim community on Penang Hill
  7. Penang Hill Railway: Hill train taking visitors up the hill
  8. Richmond: Rest house belonging to the Municipal Council of Penang Island
  9. Strawberry Hill / David Brown's Cottage: Hillock near the Penang Hill Railway, where plantation owner David Brown built a cottage
  10. The Great Wall: Hill retreat on Penang Hill built by Khoo Sian Ewe

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