Penang civil society group wants world body to review state transport plan

Ida Nadirah Ibrahim
Penang Forum steering committee members, Lim Mah Hui (left) and Khoo Salma Nasution, speak to reporters at Ilham Tower in Kuala Lumpur June 22, 2018. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — Civil society group Penang Forum hopes to rope in an international expert body to review the island state’s proposed transport master plan.

Its steering committee member Lim Mah Hui said there were concerns over changes made to the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) that made the project too expensive to resolve the northern state’s traffic congestion woes.

“Our main concern is the cost and environmental impact of the plan that focuses too much on mega projects, which may not solve the problem.

“We propose for a global independent body, such as the Institute of Transport and Development or the World Bank, to come and assess the present proposal.

“We are not the experts but we know there are certain issues that must be addressed,” he told reporters after meeting with the Council of Eminent Persons at Ilham Tower here today.

Asked if Penang needs an undersea tunnel as a third link between its island and mainland, Lim said there are better methods to manage the cross-channel traffic, such as improving the ferry transportation system.

“Now the federal government has control over it; instead of having the tunnel, they could upgrade the ferries,” he said.

Another member, Khoo Salma Nasution, told reporters that the state needs a better public transportation system that does not require mega construction at high cost.

“We need a paradigm shift to transform urban mobility and not just build mega projects.

“The public should be a comprehensive system which is seamless, covers the last mile and is accessible to everyone,” she said.

On June 12, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow had said mega projects in the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led state differ from the projects undertaken by the former Barisan Nasional federal government, following calls from civil society to have the large-scale projects reviewed.

The projects approved by the former ruling government are currently being reviewed by the new PH government.

The PTMP outlines public transport, highway and traffic management strategies to be implemented by Penang up until 2030 to tackle congestion in the state.

It is based on comprehensive studies undertaken several years ago by transport consultant Halcrow.

The initial cost of the project was RM27 billion, which requires the sale of reclaimed land to finance it.