Penang will bear all operational deficits for proposed LRT line, says Chow

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow poses for a photo after the state legislative assembly was adjourned, November 8, 2019. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow poses for a photo after the state legislative assembly was adjourned, November 8, 2019. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 8 — The Penang state government will have to bear all operational deficits for the proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) in the early stages, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said today.

He said a successful transit model like in Singapore depended on the government’s support to maintain and upgrade public transport assets.

“The state government will come up with a sustainable public transportation operation model and come up with an appropriate financing model for the capital expenditure and operating expenditure to ensure the LRT service is of quality and its assets are managed in an efficient and safe manner,” he said in his winding-up speech at the state legislative assembly today.

Chow said public transport such as railway service are public services in which its capital expenditure has to be borne by the government.

“The implementation of a sustainable public transport system as found in developed countries has pull and push factors that needed to be implemented including first and last mile transportation,” he said.

He said London’s Tube, which is 150 years old is still being funded by the government.

The projected total passengers for the LRT Bayan Lepas of 42 million is in line with the state’s goal of achieving the model share of 40 per cent public transport users and 60 per cent private car users by 2030.

As for the projection of initial model share of 10 per cent for public transport users to gradually increase to 40 per cent in the long run, Chow said the projected annual passengers is seven million with a revenue of RM20 million for 2027.

“For 2032, the annual projected passengers is 16 million with a revenue of RM50 million,” he said.

Chow said based on the latest projection of the operation and expenditure costs, in 2027, the costs will be RM32 million while in 2032, the costs will be RM40 million.

“The deficit for the first year of operations is projected to be about RM11 million and it is expected to record surpluses from the fifth year of operations onwards,” he said.

Chow said the state government, through its Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), hopes to build infrastructure that caters to both public transport and private vehicles.

“Other than encouraging 40 per cent public transport use, the state will still need to provide a good network of highways for the other 60 per cent of road users,” he said.

He pointed out that Hong Kong, with a 90 per cent public transport use, is still building highways and new highways.

“The cost of a highway project in Hong Kong currently is about RM45 billion, which is almost the same as the overall costs of the PTMP,” he said.

Chow said the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) is a transformation plan for the next 50 years for the state.

He said Penang has a population of 776,000 in the 1970s which has grown to a population of 1.77 million, which is an increase of 128 per cent in 50 years.

“This is why the state needs to plan for the future to ensure the sustainability of the state,” he said adding that the state’s transportation plans has to be efficient.

He dismissed claims that the reclaimed islands will not be suitable to residents.

He said the projected optimum density for the reclaimed islands are almost similar to Pengkalan Kota constituency with 20,000 voters in within a space of 1 sq km.

“Pengkalan Kota remains an interesting and  lively location for residents and visitors,” he said.

He said comparing Penang’s density to other cities like London was not realistic as London has its own dynamics.

Chow also said the PSR plays an important role in generating 300,000 jobs in future as an international manufacturing and services hub.

The state legislative assembly was adjourned after the Supply Bill 2020 was approved.

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