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Why no visible action on Penang tunnel study?

In October 2013, the Penang state government formally signed a preliminary agreement with the Consortium Zenith BUCG to carry out feasibility study on the undersea tunnel. On Jan 24, 2014, Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd announced that it expects to complete a feasibility study on the controversial RM6.3 billion tunnel. The report will be released in April 2014.

Until today there is no sign of any actual work. No drill ship, semi-submersibles, jackup barges, barges, or platform rigs were seen off Gurney Drive.

When the state formally signed a preliminary agreement with the Consortium Zenith BUCG to carry out feasibility study on the undersea tunnel, we expect the study will assess the technical feasibility of constructing a tunnel and its portals; impacts of portals on adjacent land use, transportation facilities and buildings; ventilation requirements and impacts; potential conflicts with existing utilities; geotechnical analysis; the feasibility of using the tunnel by trucks carrying dangerous goods; other relevant tunnelling issues, and construction costs.

We do not expect the parties involved to fake the study. Today because of a partisan stand, our politicians, NGOs, media and so-called activists refuse to take a look at this issue of a faked feasibility study. It is sad to note that public safety is playing second fiddle to politics.

The proposed tunnel is a short tunnel at great depth to provide clearance for maritime activities at Penang Port.

Very little is know about the geological, hydrogeological and geotechnical conditions: the deeper the tunnel, the larger the uncertainties; the higher the probability of encountering adverse or unforeseen conditions for tunneling, the greater the effort and the cost for site investigations to reduce the uncertainties.

The depth of the tunnel might cause the intended route passed through a layer of fuller's earth, which might not sufficiently stable to allow construction of a tunnel. Because of the depth of the tunnel , the tunnel might end up having an entrance ramp with a steeper gradient.

A tunnel would need to be built deep, creating a vertically V or U shaped route with potentially sharp gradients. According to the European Union (EU), a tunnel gradient should not exceed five percent. Anything exceeding the five percent gradient is not considered to be desirable from a safety perspective - it would be like travelling down the Nguaranga Gorge, but in a tunnel.

Zenith BUGC should provide detail information on which company that has been engaged to study the subsurface conditions which include geology, ground water, gas conditions, man-made contaminants, and seismic issues. When and where did the study take place?

In order to characterise geological condition including faults, drilling survey should be planned in the region under tunnel excavation. How many horizontal and inclined bore-holes and how many vertical bore-holes were drilled?

Which drill ship company has been engaged to do the drilling? When and where did the activities take place?

Zenith BUGC should provide detailed information on the location of bore-holes in the under tunneling region. A detailed geological logging should be provided as proof of the feasibility study. Detailed geological mapping that has been carried out at the tunnel slope and faces should be provided as well. 3D Geological Modeling as a representation of the geology for the tunnel alignment should be provided, too.

Detailed geological survey needed

A detailed geological survey including concentrated vertical and horizontal drillings should be carried out in order to evaluate geometry and engineering properties of the fault system. The existence of a main fault zone is one of main hazardous factors of tunnel construction. Preliminary geo-technical investigations for the tunnel should be performed as part of the feasibility study.

The purpose of geophysical surveys was to improve the geological understanding by identifying the various soil layers and the nature of the seabed and any objects hereon. Furthermore, these surveys contributed to environmental knowledge. We cannot accept any feasibility study which were conducted in the office without doing any actual geological survey.

Please! You don't pay RM305 million for paperwork. Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd has been granted some nine acres of land (3.64ha) on Seri Tanjung Pinang 1 (STP1), worth RM305 million, by the state government to finance the feasibility study.

To fake a feasibility study is tantamount to committing political suicide. The Lim Guan Eng administration should realise that under the sun with open space horizon, there is no place to hide. Lim Guan Eng should immediately call Zenith BUGC to provide a clear picture on the geological survey that is supposed to take place.

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