GEORGE TOWN, Jan 10 ― Penang Hill Corporation (PHC) General Manager Datuk Cheok Lay Leng has reassured the public that the proposed cable car system linking Botanic Gardens to the hilltop of Penang Hill is the most environmentally friendly transportation option.
He said the cable car system was used in numerous Unesco World Heritage nature parks and hills around the world.
“Only renowned cable car system providers that have proven track record in building cable car systems at Unesco World Heritage sites globally will be considered,” he said in response to concerns raised by local non-governmental organisations on the state’s plans to build the cable car system on Penang Hill.
He said experienced cable car system providers with a proven track record will ensure the Penang Hill cable car system strictly follows best-known engineering designs that are safe using environmentally friendly construction methodologies.
Cheok said a pre-feasibility study of the cable car project is still ongoing.
“The study will include market, social and economic, initial environmental study, transportation analysis and assessment, evaluation of alignment options done previously, review of cable car options, and financial models, viability and options,” he said.
He added that currently, the consultant is in the process of data collection and analysis.
“At this moment, we would like the pre-feasibility project consultant to carry out their studies independently and smoothly,” he said.
Cheok stressed that once the study is completed, PHC will share the findings and disclose further details on it.
As for questions on the next stages after the study, Cheok said the project will be subjected to a full technical feasibility study.
He said it must comply with guidelines and specifications and also obtain the necessary approval from all relevant authorities.
“The design and construction stages will go through an open tender process with stringent criteria, and only those that have proven ability and track record will be invited to the tender process,” he said.
At this point, he said PHC will not be able to identify which companies will be vying for the cable car project as it has not reached the design and construction stage yet.
Recently, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and the Penang Consumers Association (CAP) called for the cable car project for Penang Hill to be stopped.
They claimed it would negatively affect the sensitive and fragile ecosystems of both the hill resort and the Penang Botanic Gardens.
“The breakdown of the existing funicular railway cannot be used as an excuse to push the cable-car project, without investigating the causes for the breakdown and how to prevent them in the future,” they said, responding to a statement by Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow on the cable-car project providing an alternative transport up the hill.
They suggested that PHC improved the frequency of the maintenance of the railway to prevent the railway from breaking down.
In a statement, CAP and SAM said the cable car project is not environmentally sustainable, both for the hill and the Botanic Gardens.
Chow had said that eight to 10 pylons would be installed to support the cable car with a station near the Penang Rifle Club at the Botanic Gardens.
CAP and SAM pointed out that the Penang Rifle Club was not outside the Botanic Gardens but is within the Special Area Plan of the Gardens.
They said the installation of the pylons and subsequently the maintenance of the cable car will cause disruption to the fragile and environmentally sensitive areas of Penang Hill and the Botanic Gardens.
“If the government insists on doing so despite our objections and concerns, then we call for very comprehensive and thorough studies to be done and evaluated on the environmental and social impacts of the cable-car project on both the Hill and the Botanic Gardens prior to taking any decision on the project,” they said.
They said the pre-feasibility study and subsequent studies must ensure that the environmental and social impacts to the hill and the Gardens are prioritised.
They also called on the state government to make public the terms of reference of the studies, the people who conducted the studies, the full reports of the studies and to clarify the companies vying for the cable car project.
SAM President Meenakshi Raman and CAP President Mohideen Abdul Kader signed the statement.