The Perak government will go ahead with the Bukit Larut Cable Car project despite financial constraints and objections from various quarters. State tourism committee chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohd Radzi said the Taiping Municipal Council was conducting a study to find the best approach to manage and develop Bukit Larut to be sustainable environmentally and economically.
The council will manage Bukit Larut, popularly known as Maxwell Hill, in line with the recommendation by the auditor-general. Nolee said the state government sought financial assistance from the federal government under the 11th Malaysia Plan but the amount and form of funding was still being worked out.
Nolee said the project was estimated to cost RM65 million but the actual amount had yet to be finalised. Malay Mail had in a special report on Saturday highlighted plans on the cable car project, which was mooted by the state government in 1997.
Nolee also defended the project against criticism by non-governmental organisations which claimed it would cause environmental damage. She said the development plan did not include construction of hotels or accommodation. “Only the existing resthouses will be refurbished and upgraded. In fact, some have already been upgraded.” More walkways, gardens and public amenities would also be built or upgraded within the specified area around the top station, she said.
“Cable cars are the most environment-friendly form of public transportation, not only in construction, but also operations and maintenance. They have been used in Europe for more than 150 years. “It is widely used in gazetted national parks all over the world. Asia is catching up with this trend. Look at China, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia; they are opening up their highlands using cable cars and not cutting the hills to build roads,” she said.
On fears the project would become a white elephant, Nolee said the Langkawi cable car and Penang Hill funicular railway had proven to be successful tourism products as both facilities transported more than one million passengers a year.
Some quarters have questioned the viability of the project, saying it would need 42,000 visitors a month, or about 1,400 a day, to ensure it is not a losing concern. Nolee also cited the Taiping Zoo and Night Safari, which received more than 650,000 visitors a year, as examples. This figure, she said, strengthened the state government’s optimism in achieving a sustainable and viable tourism product.
The 3.5km cable car line will link the jeep track station at the foothill to the resthouse near the top station. The distance between the two points using the Land Rover service is about 10km.