Malaysiakini Letter

Costly to demolish Penang's existing buildings for bus or tram systems

Joshua Woo
Published:

LETTER | If Penang state government wants to build a public transport system, many existing buildings and structures must be demolished to construct new roads as dedicated lanes for bus and tram.

But before that, the state government will have to acquire land and properties first before they can think of embarking on such high scale projects.

As Penang is gearing up to construct Light Rail Transit (LRT), a civil group called Penang Forum had organised a forum called 'Penang Light Rail Transit: A Solution or Financial Distress' over the weekend to reject the plan.

They suggested that the LRT is to be replaced with Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART), Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and conventional tram system.

The Penang Forum wants the transport system to be on the ground, regardless if it’s ART, BRT, or tram. Their main rationale is that it is cheaper.

Their suggestion is based on the Halcrow Report, prepared by consultants in 2013 as a guide for Penang’s transport plan.

But the civil group's suggestion is wrong for two reasons.

Firstly, the estimated cost referred to in the Halcrow Report is unverified and incomplete.

Halcrow’s estimate doesn’t even include the cost for land acquisition, which can go up to the billions, depending on the roads and properties to be acquired.

Here below is Halcrow’s disclaimer which Penang Forum did not reveal to the public (The 'Recommended Transport Master Plan Strategy', page 39):

“It should be noted that all infrastructure provision costs exclude costs associated with land acquisition. It should also be noted that these cost estimates have been produced for the sole purpose of gaining a high-level understanding of the overall costs that are likely to be associated with implementing the 'Recommended Transport Master Plan Strategy'. As such, they are based on the adoption of a number of assumptions that are yet to be verified through the undertaking of more detailed feasibility studies.”

Halcrow made it clear that their estimation was unverified and incomplete.

To add on, the ART was not listed in the Halcrow Report. 

Nonetheless, the unverified costing listed in the report for other on-ground transport system has been misused by Penang Forum.

Secondly, the on-ground public transport system will add more traffic problems to the existing roads (The Highway Improvement Plan, page 7) :

“On Penang Island, particularly within George Town and on the approaches to George Town, many of the existing roads are fronted by established development and are already catering for a wide mix of transport uses. The introduction of an extensive Tram and Bus Rapid Transit system, as proposed under the 'Recommended Transport Master Plan Strategy', with [sic] further add to these problems.”

As clearly stated in the Halcrow Report, public transport systems such as tram or bus rapid transit will only cause more problems to the present environment in Penang.


Joshua Woo is a former councillor of Seberang Perai Council.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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