Group tells Penang and Putrajaya to let experts, not developers, plan state’s transport system

(From left) Penang Forum Lim Mah Hui, social activist Anil Netto and CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader speak to reporters in George Town October 25, 2019. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
(From left) Penang Forum Lim Mah Hui, social activist Anil Netto and CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader speak to reporters in George Town October 25, 2019. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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GEORGE TOWN, Oct 25 — The Penang Consumers Association (CAP) urged the Transport Ministry and the state government to appoint technical experts in planning the state’s transportation system.

CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader said he wrote to Transport Minister Anthony Loke and Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow proposing that an independent consultant be appointed to look into planning a sustainable, environmentally-friendly and cheaper public transportation system for the state.

“Why is the state government letting a contractor and developer come up with solutions for the state’s traffic congestion’s?” he asked during a press conference today.

He said independent experts should be appointed instead to look into implementing Halcrow’s original proposal to implement an integrated public transport system for the state.

The state government had hired consultant, Halcrow, to come up with a proposal for the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), which NGOs claimed included a RM9.677 billion public transport system with trams, a bus rapid transit (BRT), fast ferry and commuter to alleviate traffic congestion.

Mohideen said the traffic congestion in the state could be resolved more cheaply and without reclaiming lands or destoying rich fishing areas.

He demanded to know why the state government and Transport Ministry chose a more expensive and environmentally-damaging plan to resolve congestion issues.

“This is something that will create financial problems for the state government in future,” he said, referring to the planned Bayan Lepas Light Rail Transit (LRT) project.

He said CAP sent reminders to the ministry and the state government but received no response from either.

Earlier, Penang Forum’s Lim Mah Hui disputed the state government’s claim that 97 per cent of respondents in the public display of the LRT project supported the project.

He claimed the questionnaire had leading questions that tricked respondents into saying they supported the project.

“In fact, most respondents and the public at large, have not been shown the pros and cons of the LRT without bias, nor have they been made aware of better, cheaper, quicker alternatives,” he said.

Anil Netto, who was at the press conference, said the LRT line covers a population of only 200,000 people on the main island and an expected 400,000 people from the three proposed man-made islands.

“The three islands will only be completed in 2038 so before then, the catchment area of the LRT line only has 200,000 people,” he said.

He asked the state government who would pay the maintenance and operation costs of the LRT until 2038 as it would not be able to get enough ridership before the completion of the three islands.

“Who would bear the costs if the ridership of 81,000 daily was not met? Will the people have to bear the costs in the end?” he asked.

He said Halcrow had suggested a cheaper alternative using trams that connected the airport to Weld Quay which should have been considered instead of the LRT.

The civil society has been critical of the state’s RM46 billion PTMP especially the plans to reclaim 4,500 acres off the southern coast of Penang by creating three man-made islands.

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