We have been watching with interest from the sideline on the development of the recently announced RM8 billion undersea tunnel project announced by our Penang chief minister.
Penangites have spoken, the NGOs have voiced out their thoughts cautioning the risk and impact of this undersea tunnel. However there are still a number of questions arising.
Firstly, the timing of the announcement of this project is puzzling. It was made with the GE13 just around the corner.
We wonder why was there such a rush to announce this project when no proper EIA study or traffic flow impact study has been conducted in the first place.
Secondly, the tunnel would surely bring a huge volume of traffic directly to the island.
This factor alone would have given many road engineers second thoughts on how they should construct a proper traffic dispersal system for such a mammoth project.
Thirdly, Consumers Association of Penang President SM Idris was on the dot by pointing out the potential of tunnel fires which may become national disasters.
Such incidences have occurred in other world tunnels before and would be a challenge to prevent, as accidents can happen anytime.
Geographically, we are not too far from the tremors coming from Sumatra. Have we forgotten that the 2004 tsunami has reached Tanjung Tokong and Gurney Drive?
Fourthly, what was the criteria that made a RM2 contractor company like Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd successful in its bid for this project?
Furthermore, this company was only formed only after the closing date of the submission of the proposal.
Clearly, there is a sheer lack of transparency and accountability in terms of awarding of contract here.
Fifthly, the state government has bulldozed through this project despite public opinion of 57 percent against this mega project in a public viewing survey on the Penang Transport Master Plan held in April and May 2012.
82.1 percent of respondants agreed on the longer term vision - the balanced approach based around building some new roads, improving public transport and ultimately charging vehicles to enter George Town and Butterworth.
We call upon the state government to immediately look into easing the traffic congestion on existing trunk roads in town and at the FIZ factory areas.
The billions of ringgit could be better utilised to improve the traffic dispersal system and to build a better public transport system.
We need a monorail/LRT that links parts of George Town to Bandar Bayan Baru and to the Penang International Airport.
We have already waited five years for our traffic woes to be resolved and we are still waiting.