GEORGE TOWN, Sept 30 — A Penang Malay group calling itself Pertubuhan Badan Pemikir Melayu Pulau Pinang has asked the state government to review all of the mega projects proposed by former chief minister Lim Guan Eng.
Its chairman Datuk Muhamad Farid Saad said it is time that the state government embraces the new normal by reviewing its projects now just like how the public have been regularly asked to adapt to the new way of life due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said it is wiser for the state government to focus on resolving traffic congestion issues on Penang island first instead of waiting for its Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) to be implemented, which could be delayed.
“We have an urgent need to resolve the congestion issue on the island first as we cannot wait 10 years or more for the PTMP,” he said to Malay Mail.
He said the PTMP will be funded by the sale of lands on the proposed three man-made islands created under the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project.
However, he said the PSR project will be delayed when the state government has to resubmit its Environmental Impact Assessment to the Department of Environment for approval.
“So we will not expect work on the PSR as the funding module to start anytime soon and without this funding module, the PTMP will also be delayed,” he said.
He said over the last week, there have been reports on the possibility of replacing the proposed undersea tunnel with a third bridge to link Gurney Drive on the island to north Seberang Perai on the mainland.
“The Penang chief minister has said that they do not reject the possibility of building a bridge instead of the tunnel and obviously, he is wiser than the previous chief minister who mooted the undersea tunnel,” he said.
Muhamad Farid, who is also a former state assemblyman, said the costs of building a bridge is far cheaper than a tunnel and even from the beginning, there were protests by other NGOs against the undersea tunnel.
“Even state assemblymen had raised objections against the project in the state legislative assembly,” he said.
He said the state had wasted a lot of funds on the tunnel where RM20 million spent on the feasibility of the undersea tunnel will go to waste if the project is not implemented.
“The state government should have heeded the NGO’s objections from the beginning instead of trying to push ahead with the project which is a costly project,” he said.
He said if there is really a need for a third link between the island and the mainland, a bridge will be more practical and it costs less.
“So, now the state government may have to spend another estimated RM10 million to conduct a feasibility study for a bridge,” he said.
He suggested that the state government rope in the Public Works Department to conduct the study as the agency is skilled in the construction of bridges.
“This third bridge, if built, will link two major reclamation sites, the Sri Tanjung Pinang 2 (STP2) project on the island and the Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR) project by Rayston Consortium in Butterworth covering 650 hectares.
“Is the new shareholder of Consortium Zenith Construction, ECK Development Sdn Bhd, involved in the BORR project too?” he asked.
He pointed out that ECK Development is also the developer of the proposed Kulim International Airport.
He said there are two busy ports, both on the island and the mainland, in between where the proposed third bridge will be built.
“The bridge will have to be built higher to allow access to ships that need to pass underneath it so surely, the bridge will end up further from the targeted area to land on a wider area,” he said.
He said this meant that the costs of building the bridge may also be higher.
“So, even if technically a bridge can be built, the state must consider if it was worth it in terms of cost benefits of the project before making a decision,” he said.
Last week, it was reported that the Penang state government is considering building a bridge which is more cost effective instead of the undersea tunnel.
However, Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow said the project contractor, Consortium Zenith Construction has only submitted a feasibility study for an undersea tunnel and not for a bridge.
He said the state is not considering building a third bridge at the moment but he does not dismiss the possibility in future.