Sky Point Monorail
Sky Point Monorail (SP Monorail) is a monorail line in Gobras City, Gobrassanya, connecting the various Sky Points attractions from Sky Point station (where it interchanges with Line 5) to Raceway at the south. The SP monorail is operated by SP Development Corporation, one of the few lines part of the official RT-Metro system that is not operated by the RT-Metro authority or any of its subsidiaries.
In the 80s and 90s, RT-Metro and the SP Corporation drew up various proposals rail link to serve the Sky Point properties and developments, though none of these was carried out due to disagreements between the two parties and lack of funding. After deciding on an entirely self-funded monorail line, the line then began constructed in 1999, though hampered by various lawsuits and technical difficulties. The line eventually completed in 2006 from Sky Point station to WaterWorld, then extended in 2007 to Raceway when Metro Line 2 redirected its services from Seltena Creek to Jaspee. In 2008, the Sky Point terminus was refurbished to integrate with the existing metro station, followed by another extension to Gobras Sky Mall in 2014.
After the completion of the Sky Point theme park and associated developments in the 1980s, it was aimed to have the rail link within five years of its opening. However, due to lack of funding, a rail link didn't materialise, and the attractions were served by shuttle buses along Sky Point Boulevard. However, tourists complaint that the buses were too inconvenient and often get stuck in traffic. In 1983, Sky Point Boulevard was expanded with new dedicated bus lanes. However, the SP Development Corporation projected that 'shuttle buses are no longer viable' as tourist numbers increases, and the Corporation started discussions with RT-Metro Authority on the possibility of a rail link.
In 1990, both the SP Development Corporation and RT-Metro announced a 100-million Dara cable car project to boost connections along the boulevard. However, after disagreements between the two parties on the funding, operations and alignment, the project was cancelled.
Both went on to study other proposals on their own. RT-Connex, the subsidiary of RT-Metro, made preliminary plans for a tram system that includes serving Sky Point Boulevard and major roads in the southeast. The Grand Tram Master Plan, as it was called, was planned to deal with the traffic congestion in the area, and it was hoped that such a system would spur further developments in the area. However, the project was scrapped entirely as 'buses are still better to deal with traffic problems than trams'. Another plan by RT-Metro involved a new medium-capacity line from Joaquin Hills to Hearmest via Sky Point, with the possibility of extending the line to Fort Anah or Cruise Terminal. This plan was eventually scrapped over high costs and foreseen technical difficulties.
The Corporation, on the other hand, decided on an elevated light rail or people's mover project 'smth similar to the Enalee Airtrams'. The project, to be entirely self-funded, was considered more feasible, as it will avoid the roads and ensure no traffic congestion. In 1995, the project was changed to a monorail, to 'make it stand out' from the other rail lines. The proposal was considered rather 'bold' by the Corporation, as such a private venture required approval from the relevant government agencies, on matters such as land acquisition and technical details of the station structures and designs.
After many closed-door negotiations and lobbying, the project eventually went through with all permissions granted and constructed started in May 1998. The RT-Metro Authority, however, opposed the new project and made a motion to stop it, claiming to have the authority to approve any rail project in Gobras City. Insisting on putting the monorail project under their purview, the project was eventually bought to court in 1999, which ruled in favour of the Corporation. The court urged the Authority to 'help' in the project and not cause 'unnecessary disruptions' to the private venture, as the Corporation retains 'full control' of the project.
During construction, there were attempts to undermine the project. Residents along the route launched a protest in January 2001 over the construction noise and dust affecting their livelihoods. In another protest in June, a construction site near East Prado Plains caught fire but was quickly put out. Operations at the Line 8 station functioned as usual. The Corporation then imposed stricter regulations on the amount of dust and noise produced during the construction and safety and security during the construction process. An investigation was conducted but none was charged in the incident.
In 2002, the construction company contracted for the line construction faced corruption charges, which delayed the project. Investigations revealed no discrepancies of data and the contractor was acquitted. Although it was not revealed who launch the investigation, it was believed that RT-Metro was behind the disruption.
Opening and impact
Although expected to open in October 2003, the opening was delayed due to several issues during the test runs. A defect was also found in the batch of monorail rolling stock delivered, requiring replacement. In May 2005, the issues were said to have been resolved and set to open in December that year, but delayed to January 2006 over electrical problems.
New developments were built along the line as a result, such as a new pedestrian mall Contential Mall, East Prado Plains Retail and Sky Springs Hotel. From 2007 onwards, the Corporation and RT-Metro went on to collaborate closely on integrating the line with existing lines and stations. In 2007, the monorail extended to Raceway when Line 2 services to Seltena ceased. In 2008, both parties worked on refurbishing the Sky Point station which allows easier transfers between the monorail and Metro Line 5. Provisions were also made for a future extension northwards and a new underground station for another line.