GEORGE TOWN, March 5 — The Penang state government’s Congestion Alleviation Transport (CAT) free bus service will start in April with 52 buses covering 13 routes in the state.

State local government, traffic management and flood mitigation committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said this will allow the administration to gauge the effectiveness of the routes planned in the first phase of the project starting April 1.

“We have previously announced that a total 46 buses will ply 12 routes but after further studies, we decided to increase one more route to cover the Alma area on the mainland,” he said in a press conference after opening a briefing on the CAT free bus service.

The additional route required another six buses to be added to the fleet, making it a total of 29 buses serving the island and 23 plying the mainland.

“We are still in the early stages of this project as there are many other issues to consider so that we can improve the service as time goes,” he said.

The bus service aims to shuttle commuters from residential zones to main thoroughfares and nearby amenities such as hospitals, clinics, schools and supermarkets.

The RM15 million project was undertaken in collaboration with RapidPenang and the routes are subject to changes once demand is determined.

“Let us launch the first phase and we will gather feedback from commuters,” he said, adding that the administration welcomed public feedback on the route selection and hours.

The service is currently planned to operate from 6am to 10pm, but Chow said this may be extended.

The Penang government first introduced a free bus service for the public back in 2008, called the Central Area Transit, which covers around the heritage site of George Town.

The state then introduced the Bridge Express Shuttle Transit in 2011 to ferry workers from the mainland to the island.

The first free shuttle service outside the inner city, Pulau Tikus Loop (PTL) was launched in 2014 and the route was later extended to include Mount Erkine.