GEORGE TOWN, Jan 11 — Penang did not pay a single sen for the feasibility studies of the RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today.
The lawmaker insists that his state had only paid by swapping land for the three highways.
“We only swapped two pieces of land with the development value of RM1,300 psf for 3.7 acres of land which comes up to RM208 million,” he said in a press conference at his office today.
He stressed that the land swap worth RM208 million was for work done on the three highways and not the undersea tunnel.
“Contractually the project contractor should be starting on the three highways first, that comes first,” Lim said.
He explained this is why there was no hurry for the feasibility studies for the undersea tunnel to be completed first.
“The undersea tunnel is only expected to be completed in 2027, still a long way to go, so let’s concentrate on the three highways first,” he said.
Lim was responding to criticisms by his political opponents over the delay in the completion of the feasibility studies.
He stressed that the state did not pre-sell any other lands or swap any other lands other than the first 3.7 acres for the whole RM6.3 billion project.
The two pieces of land covering 3.7 acres were swapped to pay for the completed environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports for the three highways which was already submitted to the Department of Environment.
“We will pay for the whole project through more land swaps in future but we’ve not done that yet because project is not completed,” he said.
Lim added that The Star article claiming the state had “pre-sell state land rights” worth RM3 billion was a blatant lie.
“I don’t know how they get that figure, it is an outright lie,” he said.
The controversial 7.2km undersea tunnel, which was awarded to Consortium Zenith, was proposed to connect Gurney Drive on the island to Bagan Ajam in Butterworth as part of the state’s Penang Transport Master Plan to ease traffic congestion in the state.
The feasibility studies for the tunnel was delayed for almost two years and last October, Consortium Zenith claimed there was no hurry to complete the studies as the project is only expected to start in 2023.
The three highways consist of a 10.53km North Coastal Paired Road from Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang, a 5.7km Air Itam-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway bypass and a 4.075km Gurney Drive – Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway bypass.