Blog

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Our guest contributor is Eric Britton, a sustainable transport expert who visited Penang a couple of years ago. He says, “The priority is not to further expand supply of inefficiently used infrastructure, but rather to manage and use it better.”

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Photograph: The Malaysian Insider

Under normal circumstances, I would be the first to support any plan to promote sustainable transport in Penang and Malaysia. Unfortunately, I cannot support the Penang transport masterplan as it stands for the following reasons:

1. Ballooning costs: The cost keeps ballooning even before it starts. RM27bn was already an astronomical figure. Now we are told it will be RM35-40bn (The Edge interview with the Penang chief minister). And that is excluding the tunnel, mind you. (A figure of RM6.3bn has been mentioned for that.) These are mega projects by any definition – and we used to criticise Mahathir for those, with justification. Whose idea was it to have a road tunnel, anyway?

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CAP has just come out with a statement below:

What is Penang without her green? What is Green Lane without the Green? Penang is slowly losing its green as more concrete jungles are taking over for development and paving the way for more vehicles.

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Construction of three highways in Penang Island is expected to begin in June 2016, but the consortium will only need a preliminary EIA before starting work. This is such a major project – highways near hills and densely populated areas – and yet, they don’t need a detailed EIA?

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In this era of climate change, I was alarmed to hear that up to three dozen big trees could be removed along Jalan Masjid Negeri (“Green” Lane) to make way for another car lane. (Update: Apparently, 18 trees could be involved, not 33 as reported or recommended – and MBPP has not yet made a decision … though the project is expected to be completed by May 2017.) This is the stretch across the road from the MacDonald’s outlet.

This road-widening project is expected to cost some RM15m. (Update: Now they say it will cost RM7.8m – plus acquisition costs?) Is this the best use of our limited funds? Would it really solve our traffic problems? For how long?