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Penang Forum’s ‘better, cheaper, faster’ transport plan not practical, says state

Penang state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow said the roads in the state were not wide enough to allow for sharing between private vehicles and on-the-road trams. ― Picture by K.E. OoiPenang state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow said the roads in the state were not wide enough to allow for sharing between private vehicles and on-the-road trams. ― Picture by K.E. OoiGEORGE TOWN, July 22 — Penang Forum’s proposed alternative Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) is not viable and practical, state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow said today.

Chow, together with the PTMP project delivery partner SRS Consortium’s project director Szeto Wai Loong, pointed out a list of weaknesses in the alternative “better, cheaper, faster” transport plan by the local non-governmental organisation (NGO), including the lack of a funding plan and impractical proposals.

“Penang Forum wants the best of both worlds — they want faster, cheaper, better. They want to share roads but all these proposals are not practical,” Chow told a press conference in Komtar today.

He said the roads in Penang were not wide enough to allow for sharing between private vehicles and on-the-road trams.

He believed this will contribute to even more traffic jams as the lanes for cars will have to be reduced for the tramlines.

According to Szeto, the costs of trams were not “cheaper” than the LRT as claimed because the additional space required for the tram lines would mean extra costs to acquire lands.

He used the Edinburgh tram as an example where the original plan was to build an 18.5km team, but only 14km was completed to date due to a funding crisis.

They both said the state’s aim was to reach 40 per cent public transport share, but that this will not happen overnight as it takes years for commuters to switch to public transportation.

“Even if we reach 40 per cent public transport share, we still have 60 per cent private vehicles on the road and with trams taking up parts of the roads, this will contribute to even more jams,” Chow said.

He said this is the reason why elevated structures for the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) are needed, so that it does not take up several lanes on the road.

As for the project costs, Szeto admitted the total costs of the PTMP are estimated to run up to RM46 billion due to additional components for the mainland.

“In our proposal, the costs of RM27 billion were according to the Halcrow proposal but after we were made project delivery partner, we had discussions with the state and added more components. That is why the estimated costs increased,” he said.

SRS also listed out the reasons for the Penang South Reclamation plan, the main purpose of which was to fund the PTMP.

“The reclaimed land will belong solely to the state government and the proceeds from the sale of the land via public auction will be used to fund the PTMP,” he said.

At the same time, Szeto contends that the additional land space will be an economic driver for the state.

SRS and Chow were responding to a press conference by Penang Forum last week claiming that the state could have implemented a “better, cheaper and faster” transport plan.

Last week, the group claimed the state’s PTMP was too expensive and poorly integrated before proposing their alternative plan consisting mostly of trams and a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

They contended that there was no need to build more highways, but instead to introduce an integrated tramline system complemented by the BRT to reduce cars on the roads.

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