Society

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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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Graphic: The Star

The Penang Forum steering committee has just released this:

The chief minister of Penang recently used the accident on the first Penang bridge to justify his proposed RM27bn transport masterplan. This is disingenuous; it is like arguing that more highways are needed because of traffic jams caused by accidents on the North-South highway.

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When the Penang government allowed the maximum density of 30 homes per acre for residential properties to be raised to 87 homes per acre in 2010, the argument was that the higher density would allow developers to build more affordable homes. Yeah, right. (Did you really believe that at the time?)

Take a look at this report below, now. Five major developers are now focusing on homes with prices ranging from RM480,000 to RM3.3m. The question is, just whom are they building for? The ordinary people of Penang? I think not.

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A temporary reprieve (see below).

It is time to step up the pressure against the federal Transport Ministry, the federally controlled Penang Port Commission, and the privatised Penang Port Sdn Bhd, which is linked to Sea Terminal under Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary.

We are not just demanding that the ferries not be reduced from 1 January. We want MORE ferries. If not, hand over the ferry service to the Penang state government.