KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — The Sepang Municipal Council will be testing a fully electric tram in Cyberjaya early next year under a pilot project as part of its aim of becoming a smart low-carbon city by 2025.

The tram uses the automated rapid transit (ART) system which is said to be a hybrid between a trackless train and electric bus, The Star reported today.

The daily reported Sepang Municipal Council president Datuk Abd Hamid Hussain saying that the tram, which may be autonomous or manned by a driver, would operate on virtual tracks on the road that will be identified by road markings.

“The tram will have three coaches, with the capacity to ferry 307 passengers at a time and move at a maximum speed of up to 70km per hour,” he was quoted as saying.

He added that there would be a charging station and ART station to support the tram operations.

According to Abd Hamid, the pilot project is in cooperation with Mobilus Sdn Bhd.

Mobilus had previously carried out a pilot project — launched in April — of the ART system in Iskandar Malaysia, Johor.

As early as February 2016, then federal territories minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor had said the government viewed trams as being a cheaper and suitable alternative to the abandoned monorail project in Putrajaya to solve traffic congestion, and had said the government plans to introduce a tram service in Putrajaya and Cyberjaya within three years.

In March 2018, the Land Public Transport Commission (Spad) — now replaced by the Land Public Transport Agency (Apad) — said it had proposed a tram system for Putrajaya, Bangi, Cyberjaya and Kajang as it was eco-friendly and cheaper compared to conventional rail public transportation systems.

Spad had said the tram system could be linked to two MRT lines and the planned High Speed Rail line.

The Star today reported Sepang councillor and Residents’ Representative Committee chairman for Cyberjaya, Tengku Dr Jamaluddin Mahmud Shah as having reservations about the long-term viability of a tram system as public transportation uptake is poor.

He noted that Selangor’s free bus service Smart Selangor continued to ply routes in Cyberjaya despite low ridership during the movement control orders and despite operating at a loss as it is state funded, adding that public transportation should not be driven by profit but should act as a service to the public.

“There are not many passengers even for the buses, so I am not sure how the tram will fare if it is to be run by a private company.

“I do not know the details of the pilot project but I hope studies have been conducted to determine a profitable alignment for the tramway before construction because unlike buses, the route for trams is fixed,” he was quoted saying.

He said it was uncertain if the car-centric culture will change to enable the tram system to be profitable, and said that radical changes from the government may be needed to limit private vehicle usage and push the public to shift to using public transportation.