Penang Forum, CAP oppose mega tunnel project


The Penang Forum Steering Committee and the Consumers Association of Penang have both released statements opposing the road-based tunnel project.

Read the CAP statement in The Malaysian Insider.

And the Penang Forum statement is below:

Penang Forum opposes road-based tunnel, serious reservations about highway-building spree

The Penang Forum Steering Committee opposes the proposed road-based undersea tunnel and the state government’s emphasis on highway construction over improvements in public transport.

(The tunnel would be the fourth cross-channel link, after the ferries and the first and second Penang bridges.)

There are just too many unanswered questions (see the list below) that throw the viability of this mega project into doubt.

While it is true that public transport comes under the jurisdiction of the federal government, we feel that ‘do-the-wrong-thing’ approach (promoting dependency on private motor vehicles over the long term) is worse than the ‘do-nothing’ approach.

A more sensible and visionary approach would be to come up with a comprehensive plan for sustainable transport while educating the public and pressuring the federal government to realise that change.

It is true that the federal government now has overbearing jurisdiction over public transport but that may not be the case if there is a change of government in the coming general election or the one after that. Jurisdiction over public transport would then be decentralised.

In the meantime, the state government should lay the ground work for integrated, sustainable public transport in the state. The state government can do the following now:

  • Kick off a campaign to promote the widespread use of public transport among ordinary commuters. State government leaders could show leadership by example by taking the bus or cycling to work wherever possible.
  • Prevent illegal parking (by clamping) to decongest key routes so that bus lanes can be created along certain stretches. A trial run could be carried out at Burma Road, for instance. These bus lanes may also be used by taxis, emergency vehicles and multi-occupancy vehicles.
  • Buy RapidPenang season tickets in bulk and distribute them to target groups such as school children, working adults and senior citizens. Alternatively, the state government could provide full or partial reimbursements to those who show proof of purchase of these season tickets.

The public can be enlisted to do the following:

  • Pressure the federal government through petitions and letter-writing campaigns to increase the number of buses in the state and decentralise public transport decision-making.
  • Turn the quest for improved public transport in the state into a major general election campaign issue.
  • Take public transport to work at least once a week for a start.
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We enclose our reasons for opposing the tunnel project and our reservations about the highway building spree.

Penang Forum Steering Committee

19 March 2013


About the vision:

  • Shouldn’t important public policies be based on evidence and analysis?
  • Will building more roads solve traffic problems?
  • Is the public being given an alternative based on sustainable transport?
  • Are we moving to the 21st century or moving back to 20th century with the state government’s emphasis on building infrastructure for private motor vehicles?
  • Does creating dependency on private transport help the poor?

About the process of making public policy

  • The formal agreement for the (Transport Masterplan) TMP was signed in mid 2011. In the same week, the CM announced the signing of MOU for four major road projects with Chinese companies. Does it make sense to have the solution before the study has started? Does this not ignore evidenced based analysis and policies?
  • Concurrent negotiations for the tunnel and highway projects started in 2011 held while the TMP study was underway. Why were awards for the projects given out even before the TMP is finalized and made public?Doesn’t this pre-empt the significance of the report’s recommendations?
  • TMP calls for a balanced approach to solving transport problems. It suggested short and medium term measures and recommended major road construction as longer term solutions commencing after the short/medium-term measures. Are we putting the cart before the horse by reversing the priorities suggested in the TMP?
  • Have there been independent feasibility studies, cost benefit analysis, traffic demand simulation etc done for ALL the four projects before they were tendered? Isn’t it standard best practice to conduct such studies BEFORE tender and award, rather than after?
  • The TMP is based on the assumption that the population will be 2.5m by 2030 and that by this time a sea tunnel may be justified. The Department of Statistics released a population projection last year which projects a population of 1.8m by 2030. It appears that Halcrow has not done any modelling of the population; they have just assumed historical growth rates will continue, which would suggest that the tunnel will not be required even by 2030.
  • How is the public expected to provide meaningful feedback when they are hazy about the precise alignment of the routes? All the precise proposed alignments should be displayed to the public for their comments. State gov should practice transparency especially now that the Freedom of Info Act has been passed?
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About the tender

  • If there was an MOU with the China government, how can there be an open tender? Is that why only two bids were received for the tunnel – both involving firms from China? Why were there no other bids from other countries? Because of the earlier MOU? If so, is this really an open tender?
  • Who are the parties behind the three small local companies that were in the winning tender bid? Has there been an evaluation to look into their track record and expertise? Do these companies have any political connections?
  • What kind of performance bonds will the local companies give?
  • Can state govt under the CAT policy make publicly available all the tender documents and acceptances and the decisions of the tender award.

About the reclaimed land

  • What are the plans for the 110 acres of land: how is the use of this land going to contribute to or solve some of our existing problems. Is it going to add to traffic congestion? Is it going to address shortages in public space and how is it going to influence the property market and the price of housing. How much affordable housing will be built on this land?
  • Who is going to develop the land – the local companies within the consortium, the China companies or an external developer? If so, who is the developer and the contractors and do they have any political connections?
  • Can the state government guarantee that there will be a really independent detailed environmental impact assessment for this land? Can it also guarantee that there will be a reliable independentt hydrological study for the entire island and mainland?
  • What is the market value and gross development value of the reclaimed land? Where exactly is this located?

The financial considerations

  • Who will pay for the cost of acquisition of private land that is in the way of the proposed highways?
  • How was it decided to award 110 acres of reclaimed land to the project proponents along with a 30-year concession for tolls? Was there a financial projection of future revenue for both the reclaimed land and the tunnel toll collection? If so, how many billions in profit is the consortium estimated to make? If there is no financial projection, why not and how was it decided to award them reclaimed land in addition to a 30-year tunnel toll concession?
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Misguided priorities

  • The TMP puts public transport at a much higher priority than the tunnel. In fact, the TMP consultants diplomatically (given that the tunnel was probably the state government’s idea) suggested that the tunnel would only be something to consider for 2030 and beyond. Why is this being brought forward to “2025-2030” and even earlier now?
  • If a tunnel or other cross-channel link is necessary, shouldn’t it be a rail link? A cross-channel rail link is more important given the completion of the dual tracking to Butterworth and the future high-speed rail linking Singapore to KL and Penang.
  • Why is the north coast pair road from Teluk Bahang to Tanjung Bunga a priority now? Is it being driven by property development considerations? According to the TMP (and it’s clear to everybody), the Outer Bypass between Farlim and Tun Lim Expressway should be built first instead of the north coast pair road. Why is the state government putting it the other way round?
  • Focusing on building roads without addressing the demand for road use will NOT solve the problem. In fact, it might worsen the problem. Have all the highways, tunnels and flyovers in KL and Bangkok solved traffic congestion? If not, why are we going down that path?
  • There are two sides to the equation of traffic problem: the Supply Side (building more roads) and the Demand Side (the demand for those roads caused by more vehicles). What is being done to tackle the rising demand for motor vehicles and road space?
  • Do we realise that greenhouse gas emissions from road transport is one of the biggest contributors to global warming? How are more highways and a road-based tunnel compatible with the state government’s slogan of ‘Cleaner, greener Penang’? Shouldn’t we be laying the ground work for sustainable public transport now?
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  1. Thank you Gerakan K for raising your point, which I find very pertinent.

    It is our democratic right to send a strong message to our leader, be he the Chief Minister or the Prime Minister, should we strongly disagree with his position of certain issues of public interest. But before we do that, we should gauge whether the public on the whole is for, against or divided on the issue. If the public is divided, we should find out why and is there a possibility to reconcile both sides. In that way, when we make our stand, our voice is not compromised by a strong counterreaction.

    Once we have elected a leader – whether a Chief Minister or a Prime Minister – we should close ranks and follow his leadership. If we’ve hired a pilot, why are we trying to fly the plane ourselves? But in the case of the present Prime Minister of Malaysia, I do not recall him being elected by the people of Malaysia.

  2. Timothy Tye: “Let me make this clear: when I defend the Chief Minister’s position (with regards the undersea tunnel and expressways), I am not defending any particular political party: I am defending democracy. When we, the people, have elected our Chief Minister, we close ranks and follow his leadership, regardless which political party he belongs to. The people cannot allow an entity, whom we do not elect, interfere with the decision of the Chief Minister, whom we did elect. We cannot say, “But I did not personally vote for the Chief Minister.” Once a Chief Minister is elected, the people have spoken, and in a democracy, it’s the voice of the people that matters. Anybody aspiring to do the Chief Minister’s job should seek election.”

    Using the same logic, we should allow PM to do anything he likes. But why opposition still opposing Lynas ??? Even the opposition also against BR1M, why huh Timothy Tye ???

  3. Let me make this clear: when I defend the Chief Minister’s position (with regards the undersea tunnel and expressways), I am not defending any particular political party: I am defending democracy. When we, the people, have elected our Chief Minister, we close ranks and follow his leadership, regardless which political party he belongs to. The people cannot allow an entity, whom we do not elect, interfere with the decision of the Chief Minister, whom we did elect. We cannot say, “But I did not personally vote for the Chief Minister.” Once a Chief Minister is elected, the people have spoken, and in a democracy, it’s the voice of the people that matters. Anybody aspiring to do the Chief Minister’s job should seek election.

    Right now I am still have difficulty addressing the Penang Forum as a “forum” when it doesn’t behave as one. I am astonished that it can carry on for so long without anybody pointing it out. And the fact that it is an umbrella body sheltering so many NGOs is too embarrassing.

    The Penang Forum cannot continue to exist in its present incarnation. It has to decide whether it wants to be a forum or it wants to be a public watchdog. Don’t you realize what an odd creature we have in our midst? The Penang Forum, in its present state, is a chicken that quacks.

    If the Penang Forum wants to be a forum, it has to take on forum characteristics. First of all, it has to be completely impartial to issues of public interest. Secondly it has to provide the public venues to air public opinion over issues of public interest. This can be done by organizing public gatherings where such issues are discussed, the points collected, and both the pros and cons published. Penang Forum has to stay neutral at all times. This can only be achieved where the public can speak freely, not through “surveys” and “questionnaires” where the public are forced to provide a fashioned response. On the Internet, the Penang Forum can transform from a blog to an online forum, using forum software such as vBulletin. To exist as a forum, it can be the instrument of public opinion, but it cannot take a stand on any issue of public interest (in other words: stop quacking).

    If the Penang Forum desires the role of a public watchdog, it has to drop the word “forum” from its name. An entity cannot choose any name just because it sounds grand or stately. When dealing with serious issues of public interest, it is necessary to be precise. Misleading the public with your name is not acceptable. The public – those who understand English – will not take you seriously. Moreover it is a gross betrayal of public trust when an entity whose name conjures an expectation of impartiality turns out not to be. When CAP takes a stand, when PHT takes a stand, the public sees a normal picture. But when Penang Forum takes a stand, the public sees a chicken quacking. The effect will bring the house down for all the wrong reasons.

    • Commonsense should rule in the minds of the people, not blindness & dogged-tail wagging at every decision made by the executive of a state ie the ruler or leader elected by the people to run the state. In all fairness, the people can question him if there’s a grain of doubt for a better check & balance in the manner of state administration. People first, not leaders.
      If anyone of us dare to vote for a better Penang, let him also be courageous & forthright to speak out what’s wrong when there is any.
      Ego is the first word to swallow if one is sincere to lead, to make a change, to sacrifice for the common good.
      This afternoon, it rained erratically but short but the rush home traffic jam stretched till 9pm along GreenLane & Lorong Batu Lancang. Blame it on the god of rain?
      Cheers Kopi-O kau kau.

      • Yes, water overflowed from the drains along Green Lane and Scotland Road, and the roads were beginning to flood. Massive crawl as motorists avoided the flooded portions of the road near the outer edges of the road.

  4. Yang,
    You don’t need to wait for 20 years for Gurney to have traffic jam. It already jam! Once the tunnel job started it will be worst. After the tunnel job completed it will still jam as most of the visitors will end up at Gurney Plaza and jam up the whole Gurney Drive. This is Guan Eng’s solution for traffic congestion. After spending billion still jam!

  5. Some of CAP ideas is good but sometimes they oppose with understanding the situation. Like the chopping down of trees to widen the road to relieve traffic congestion. Just like Anil opposing the tunnel and road project. Look at Hong Kong tunnel built more than 20 years ago and now congested. LGE foresight 20 years ahead.

    • Giving us even more congestion in 20 years time… Foresight?

      What about more greenhouse gas emissions and global warming? Think about what kind of world your children and their children will inherit because of policies and choices we make today.

      • Greenhouse emissions are from vehicles, not tunnel.
        Root problem is high number of cars on the road.
        Provide cheap and reliable publuc transportation is the key.
        However Malaysians like cars and many depend on car trade (including repair workshops, accessories shops, petrol stations) for living.
        So nobody dare to challenge increasing number of cars on the road.
        They choose to focus on tunnel issues because of tunnel vision?

  6. Thank you Anil for informing me. I support the right of everybody to express his opinion, including opinion that I don’t agree. Once an opinion is suppressed, we stop being a democracy.

    I have not noticed the Penang Forum before, but now that I have, the fact that they misuse the term “forum” is driving me to distraction. I have no problem that a group of concerned citizens take stands on issues of public interest, but not when they call themselves “forum”. It’s either they start acting like a forum (even an online forum) or they rename themselves to something that doesn’t mislead the public.

    Let me explain.

    A FORUM is a gathering of people to discuss an issue of public interest. A group of concerned citizens may organize a forum in which the moderator introduces the ISSUE, for example, “The state government is planning to build an undersea tunnel and a few expressways. What is your opinion?”

    Members of the public may then rise up and give their opinion, whether or not they support or oppose the issue. The MODERATOR, as its name clearly suggests, ensures the discussion remains completely impartial. At the end of the discussion, the points raised are collected and published for the benefit of those who did not attend.

    If a group of concerned citizens invites a guest, such as the Chief Minister of Penang, to meet members of the public, and they pose questions related to an issue of public interest, that is not a forum, that’s a DIALOGUE.

    A forum requires concerned citizens who are the organizer to exercise complete impartiality over the issue of public interest. The invited public can be partial, the organizer cannot. If the media asks the organizer, the appropriate response would be: “I have a CONCERN, but I can’t tell you whether I am for or against the issue.” In short, no comment. Citizens and groups with concerns over issues of public interest can organize a forum to canvass public OPINION.

    As can be observed, this is not happening. In the local context, concerned groups usually have an opinion already bottled up and is simply looking for a venue to uncork it (“What, cannot take sides ah? Then where got fun neh?!”). They are not keen on accepting public opinion, they’re keen on the public accepting their opinion. If they organize a gathering of the public where they state their opinion, it’s not a forum, it’s a STAND.

    A group of concerned citizens who have opinions over issues of public interest should not call itself a forum, by right it should call itself a WATCHDOG.

    When a watchdog organises a stand, and the only acceptable course of action for the invited public is to support the stand (and those who oppose it is belittled and ridiculed), that is not a forum, that’s a RUBBER STAMPING.

    What is unpalatable is that a rubber stamping is masqueraded as a forum. And it’s against true democracy when a watchdog self-appoints itself the Big Brother of the general public and elbows its opinion as public opinion.

  7. CAP made lots of unfounded claim in Utusan Konsumer. If you trust CAP, then you will have to grow your own food as practically everything sold in supermarket are deemed unhealthy by CAP.

    CAP is nothing but a noise maker seeking attention.

  8. I am incredibly disappointed with the Penang Forum. It runs an article entitled, “Penang Forum opposes road-based tunnel, serious reservations about highway-building spree.”

    So I left a reply on that article giving my point of view, that the undersea tunnel and expressways are more beneficial than detrimental to the people of Penang. So far, it hasn’t published my reply. As of now, I am still waiting for them to publish my counterargument.

    For entities that claim to champion local democracy and the voice of the people, it’s very disappointing that when the people do speak, their voice is suppressed if it runs contrary to their established views. This is hypocritical of people who call for the liberation of local censorship but themselves practise it within their own arena.

    And how could something calling itself a “forum” take sides? A true forum is supposed to be a place where issues of public interest are discussed; on the issue of the Undersea Tunnel and Expressways, it should simply canvass public opinion and let everybody speak freely. If it states outright that it opposes or supports something, it has already formed an opinion before the public has its say. And when it suppresses contradictory views instead of listening to all respectfully, it’s even more sad. It’s like saying. “You don’t think; we’ll think on your behalf, just support us with both eyes shut.”

    If the Penang Forum is only interested in its own views, and say that it represents the people, “forum” is not the right name for it: it should instead be called the “Penang Rubber Stamp Association”.

  9. Hong Kong’s renowned for it’s public transport still has to struggle with the congestion at the Cross- Habour Tunnel.

    Cross-harbour tunnel tolls may be tweaked to ease traffic congestion

    Drivers could face a HK$5 increase in the toll for the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, with a corresponding HK$5 reduction for the Eastern Harbour Tunnel, in a plan designed to ease traffic congestion.

    Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he would consult the public on a plan to adjust tunnel tolls during the first half of the year.

    Although he did not say by how much the tolls would change, a consultant commissioned in 2010 to study congestion around the tunnels made proposals.

    The study suggested raising the cost for private cars to use the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, from Hung Hom to Causeway Bay, from HK$20 to HK$25, and decreasing that for using the eastern crossing, from Quarry Bay to Cha Kwo Ling, from HK$25 to HK$20.

    It said such an arrangement could divert 4,300 of the 120,000 vehicles passing through the government-owned Cross-Harbour Tunnel each day to the eastern crossing, which is used by 69,000 vehicles per day.

    Leung said the government may compensate the owner of the eastern crossing, the New Hong Kong Tunnel Company, for any loss in revenue.

    The third harbour tunnel – the privately run Western Harbour Crossing, which runs from West Kowloon to Sai Ying Pun – charges cars a toll of HK$55 per crossing.

    A spokeswoman for the New Hong Kong Tunnel Company said it was open to the government’s suggestion of a lower toll if it could ease traffic in the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.

    The company’s application to increase tolls by about 40 per cent was turned down in October.

    Dr Hung Wing-tat, a transport expert at Polytechnic University, said if the government adjusted toll prices it should focus on commercial vehicles, such as vans. Vehicles transporting goods are charged between HK$15 and HK$30 to use the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and HK$38 to HK$75 to use the eastern tunnel.

    “You only need to divert 20,000 vehicles from the Cross-Harbour Tunnel to the eastern tunnel to alleviate congestion,” Hung said.

    “There are 50,000 light-goods vans going through the Cross- Harbour Tunnel every day. If the toll discrepancies are narrowed, they’ll change route.”

  10. Moulmien Rise, a totally unnecessary tunnel into what is already a highly congested zone plus an inept Adun – Pulau Tikus is one seat that the DAP may well lose if LGE continues to test the limits of his supporters.

  11. People, do your OWN MATH. No sane current day public transport can efficiently transfer people from point to point..

    CAP is NOT DOING ANYTHING good proposing 1920~1980 “solution”, that WILL NO LONGER WORK IN REAL WORLD. Sad to say, even as pioneer of consumer rights, CAP is just too outdated in this globalised era.

    Everyone should scrutinized each option before hoo-ha about the traffics.
    – Public transport require massive infrastructure, vehicle investment and maintenance.
    – 4 wheel vehicle take too much space and
    – 2 wheel petrol-motorised vehicle cause pollution and the reckless riding and ignorance kill (either by themselves or other large vehicle)
    – Fully Electric-fied bicycle works like motorcycle, with shorter distance ~30~50km. Expensive than motorcycle and must acquire license.
    – Full pedal Bicycle is good for 2-5km distance for typical person.
    – Pedelec (Electric assist) bicycle , with max 25km/h electric assist cut off. 25km/h will not get yourself killed (bring helmet please) nor injured other badly.
    – Walking

    Call me a electric-fied/pedelec vehicle freaks. At the moment, the most convenient and most sensible way to travel around urabnize area is using pedelec.
    – low pollution. (Regulate to use only safe recyclable battery that use NiMH, Li-ion, LiFePO4)
    – Greatly reduce mass. So more people may use the road to travel.
    – Dedicate bicycle lane.. That minus the petrol/diesel gas pollution, minus the speed risk and low cost road maintenance, compare to the poorly maintains, full of holes and dirt federal road.
    – New job/business opportunities, e.g. charging station, bicycle lock stands, Encourage more outdoor activities than shopping malls sprees habits. Enable high-tech battery recycle plant
    – Healthier. People all around us are more “chubbier” (AKA obese) than pre 80’s . It seems Malaysia relies too much on fuel-propel vehicle and refuse to exercise. Pedelec vehicle should burn some of the fat and build up muscle.
    – Safer. Less big vehicle, safer for pedestrian and everyone.
    – More business for those restricted by “limited parking space”.
    – No more waiting for bus.
    – Perhaps bicycle “hauling” bus services in future, for those who willing to pay premium to travel a longer distance.
    – Cheaper to maintain
    – More money to everyone pocket. I don’t think most people want to get a car that only last 7~10 years if there is feasible alternate.
    – Teach Malaysia road user about proper way to use the road and respect other user.

    Too good to be true?

    Perhaps I should remind for those who have no idea about the history of human transportation. Once upon a time, the paved road is mean for bicycle, not car. And the first car is used electricity, NOT petrol.
    It is the cheap petrol discoveries that make car maker use combustion engine. When the air pollution on the rise, and the car maintenance is not getting cheaper, we all must looks beyond gasoline engine vehicle.

  12. Eu Soon and Yang can cool off taking Penang Chendol recommended by tunglang.
    However, be prepared to pay more now that the sifu Tan is preparing menu ala StarbuckishcumKimGarish style.

    • Maybe Sifu Tan of Penang Teochew Chendol have abandoned Ip Man’s Tao of Persistency of Purpose (of selling heavenly street hawker Chendol) & was enticed by HongKee Jacky Chan’s Sifu of operatic speedy change of plastic faces for Speedy Gonzales Shorter but Slippery Path to Fame + Fortune.
      Should we blame it on the contagious Cosmopolitan Penang ‘fever’ of rising cost of living + global-garish concrete development + rich man’s affordable million ringgit homes?
      I recommend Eu Soon & Yang to head for Penang Hill > Western Hill to meditate on the birds + the bees to open closed minds to how things of nature come about beautifully with love + creativity + sustainability.
      I recently tried the Snow Lotus, a Tibetan yeast enzyme drink for all-round health.
      With kopitiam’s Kopi-O, I hope for enhancement of persistency purpose + sanity of mind while still staying in Penang island of the rich & famous before relocating to Belum rainforest.
      Cheers Kopi-O kau kau.

  13. Uncertainly and change in site condition on underground projects often leads to disputes, change orders and claims. Owners usually take years to plan a project, perform geotechnical investigations needed to understand the ground through which the tunnel will be built, and deal with all the regulatory agencies and third party abutters.
    Lim Guan Eng chose to bypass the feasibility study. No preliminary study or design is available.
    Contractors are in business to make money. They usually have no input to the project plans, specifications, schedule or contracts but must accept these as given and in the space of a few months come up with a cost to perform the work and beat out all other contractors bidding the work. Underground projects are expensive, linear, and sequential, so any delay to the project leads to extra expense that the contractor will look to recover from the owner.

    In developed countries, recognizing the uncertain nature of underground construction and the need to make the contracts fairer, the government has mandated the use of a differing site condition clause in underground projects. This clause says in effect, that if the ground conditions differ from what was predicted or from what reasonably could have been anticipated in similar work then the owner would recognize this as additional costs and the contractor would be issued a change order to cover a portion of this extra cost and schedule. The alternative would be for the contractor to include into its bid a contingency to cover the potential costs if an unknown or unusual event occurred. If the contractor does this and the event does not occur then the owner is stuck paying for this uncertainty. The other option the contractor has is to not include any costs for these potential occurrences but to sue the owner to recover any additional cost should a risk event occur.
    In our case, should the contractor ask the state government for additional cost or end up suing the state government especially when the bidding price did not take into consideration the uncertain nature of underground construction?
    Is the state government intend to incorporate a change condition clause into the contract. This is one indication that the owner is willing to share the risk on the project. Risk should be given to the party to the contract that is in the best position to control the risk. More and more owners are recognizing that they own the risk of the underground. But without full accountability will the contractor and the state government abuse the clause to enrich the contractor?
    Guan Eng should clarify whether the state government t is actively looking to transfer to the contractor all risks that they are not legally required to retain. What are the better contracting practices for underground construction that the state government has adopted when formulating the contracts?

  14. We should support the government in building the tunnel. It can be a big tourist attraction for Penang. Also, I agree that it will help create jobs.

    • Tunnel as Tourist attraction? Another Darth Vader’s space-projection tunnel trip?
      Where is my Hokkien Mee?

  15. No real entrepreneur, no real leader will sacrifice the feasibility study, the preliminary study or design to find a short cut to bulldoze thru’ his proposal and ignoring the possible associated riskst. How are you going to mitigate the risk? Plan for contingency?
    Putting a cart in front of the horse is a proven solution for failure. Lim Guan Eng just prove to the world how stupid and dumb he can be.

    • Building a tunnel will require the highest expertise required. Don`t tell me LGE will award the project to any Tom, Dick and Harry company. Come on man !!!!

  16. I/f Guan Eng really want to buils a tunnel, he should get the help of real professional like AECO/M in the doing the feasibility study, the preliminary study and design, the consultancy on safety aspect of the tunnel. He should not ask for the help from companies like Justeras, Sri Tinggi or Zenith. Even THE China firms are not real designer or consultant, they are merely contractors in building tunnel in China. Without the help od real professional and venture into a highly risky tunnel construction, Guan Eng has shown to the world that he is the most irresponsible leader we ever seen in modern day. For his adrenaline rush we might need to pay a heavy price for his foolishness! There is no man who is sane enough to rely on his cronies to venture into a highly risky business except Lim Guan Eng!

  17. One of the largest cost factors associated with tunnel construction is determining what kinds of geological conditions exist between the portals or shafts of a tunnel. Modern geotechnical engineers utilize a variety of imaging technologies and boring samples to determine rock type and groundwater penetration. These technologies can provide an acceptable level of confidence in the type of rock that needs to be bored through, but this imaging is neither comprehensive nor fully reliable. Construction management firms will use past examples of projects in any given region to help develop a proper percentage to allot for contingency to account for any ambiguity in the substrate. In our case, there is no precedent in Penang for the developer to refer to.

    The ideal conditions to tunnel through are typically relatively soft homogenous rock, such
    as the sandstone present around Sydney (Pells, 2002). The complexity increases when boring through gravels or sands, because of the high permeability and low structural stiffness. Tunnelling becomes the most complex when boring through heterogeneous substrates, such as a combination of hard rock, sands, and water pockets. This is
    because it is difficult to precisely predict the regions that may cause problems, and the type of lining must be designed to withstand all types of conditions (Hoek, 1990). Although substrate type can be a large risk to the cost of a project, it cannot be attributed to the country where the tunnel is being constructed because of the wide range of rock
    types that can exist in the same region (Kleberger 2006). It may be important to consider that some countries may have mostly one type of rock which might make that country an outlier when comparing international substrates.
    There have been cases of unexpected water penetration which have drastically increased the price of tunnelling and severely reduced the profit for the contractor. One such case was during the construction of the Burnley tunnel, part of Melbourne’s CityLink project. The Burnley tunnel passes deep beneath the Yarra River, and consequentially resulted in having a very high water pressure surrounding the tunnel. As a result of unforeseen condition in the design stage, some of the 1.8m thick concrete floor panels or inverts were lifted out of place by the water pressure, causing the contractor to lose $154m in damages (Samuel, 2007). Problems like the Burnley tunnel cause contractors to place higher percentage contingencies into the bid price than any other infrastructure projects. This variance in the type of substrate present in different countries has a profound effect on the cost of tunnelling.

    In the case of cost overrun, what should we do? Abandon the project? Bailout the developer at our expenses? Allow the developer to build sub-standard tunnel and ignore safety requirement in order to prevent cost overrun? Lim Guan Eng need to clarify how he going to handling issues of cost overrun and safety if he insist that the tunnel project should proceed as planned.

  18. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO NEGOTIATE FOR SAFETY REQUIREMENT AFTER THE TENDER IS AWARDED? Our fate will at the mercy of the developer. With no-monetary payment under extreme financial constraints, do you seriously think the developer will invest on safety aspect of the tunnel? We are talking about billion dollar tunnel, not a child play. Guan Eng has been very irresponsible for ignoring the collateral consequences of his stupidity in handling the tunnel projects without the help of real professionals.

  19. Forty years ago CAP also oppose factories and the free trade zone to be built in the Bayan Lepas area as the paddy field are so beautiful, green and environmental friendly. If we follows their advise we may not have jobs and food on the table

    • True, NGOs must sometimes put themselves into the shoes of others. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. They may have certain concerns but there will always be others who will also have different concerns. It isn’t possible to please everyone and often in a democracy, the majority takes precedence even if it means all the fools are on the same side. What’s important and is clearly evident today is the opportunity and the right for people to be heard.

  20. What we faced is not just about sustainable or non-sustainable traffic solution. We are facing a problem of a total novice negotiating with the developer without the help of professional in building a billion ringgit tunnel. Does Guan Eng know about safety requirement negotiation? What would happen in the events of cost overrun? Will the state government bailout the developer using our money? With present state of affair where there is no feasibility study, no preliminary study or design, the probability of a cost overrun become more higher. This is especially true when political factor also come to play.

    • Ah Soon Ghor,

      Time is Nigh. Time for your action. LGE has brought this as an election issue. You have many ammunitions to shot at him. You can beat him by contesting against him.

      • Anwar is considering running away from his base, Permatang Pauh. You think that you guy still have the chance to win? I need to concentrate on the campaign not the contest. I only need to make sure that Guan Eng repeats the result of Tanjung 2. Without Malay support he is nothing, The Chinese votes can only guarantee you total 17 state seats. My chance of ensuring that only DAP Penang win the most seats seem to be very real and achievable. Good luck DAP Penang! I will surely make you win only! Don’t worry I am not defeating byou!

  21. The developer is obligated to provide safety equipment and high levels of insurance. For example of a construction safety cost which must be considered is proper ventilation, which is necessary to provide for the health of workers during construction. These costs can be very high which often results in construction management companies making the bare minimum investment in safety required. Without preliminary study and design how do we ensure that the developer will committed to high level of safety especially when we the Bolehlanders still renowned for lagging behind in safety requirements.
    Additionally, there are costs associated with providing for the safety of people using a tunnel after construction. All transportation tunnels will require more portals and ventilation shafts than may be necessary during the construction phase. One of the largest safety costs is associated with preventing and suppressing tunnel fires. Protecting against fire involves detection and communication systems to determine the source of a fire. Tunnel fires and smoke can spread rapidly, which necessitates fire suppression and ventilation systems. In addition, there is a need for a means of egress and regular intervals to allow for the swift exit of individuals using the tunnel in question.
    Lastly, there is a cost associated with protecting structural elements from fire so that the tunnel will not immediately collapse in the event of a fire. Tell us in clarity and certainty that Lim Guan Eng the politician without experience in managing mega project know how to negotiate with the developer in investing for our safety.
    The most likely scenario is Guan Eng doesn’t even know that he need to spell out the safety requirements or enforce any safety regulations to ensure that the developer comply to safety requirements.

  22. Dear Anil,

    Once again I find myself with a differing view from yours.

    I am concerned that your opposition over the Undersea Tunnel and Expressways will eclipse their benefits, to the detriment of the people of Penang who often support all causes without much personal evaluation. Being an influential blogger, you should rightly use your position for the best benefit of Penang. However, in the case of these infrastructure projects, I believe it is in the best interest of the people of Penang that we lend our support to the Chief Minister in constructing these roadways. Instead of objecting to their construction, we should use our position to closely monitor how the undersea tunnel and expressways are to be constructed. In other words, “Go ahead and build, but we will watch you closely.”

    The positive impact of the undersea tunnel is greater than any perceived negative impact. Once the Second Penang Bridge is constructed, both the central and southern parts of Seberang Perai will be linked to Penang Island.

    These two regions will benefit from the resulting development, urbanization and industrialization. As Northern Seberang Perai remains the only region not directly linked, the cost of doing business there will be higher than the other two regions. As a result, Northern Seberang Perai risks becoming a backwater region.

    We should not allow any particular region of Penang State to be neglected. The development and urbanization of Penang State should not be concentrated only in George Town, but should be evenly distributed to all the different regions. The construction of the undersea tunnel will spur development, industrialization and urbanization in Northern Seberang Perai. This will lead to the creation of jobs for the people there. As a whole, Penang State can develop at a uniform pace, without any region being left behind.

    More roads do not attract more traffic. These are two separate issues. The number of vehicles added to the roads will grow regardless whether more roads are built. The number of cars increase because people need the cars, not because a new roads are built. Nobody makes a decision such as “I’m going to buy a new car because the government is building a new expressway.” The usual decision is, “I’m going to buy a new car because I need a car to take me to work and back.” There are more cars because there are more people; there are more people because there are more jobs. In towns with few job opportunities, people move away, and as a result, there are fewer cars on the roads and less congestion. We should be thankful that the state government is putting in place plans for expressways that will help workers travel more speedily to their places of work.

    Most road users in Penang will agree that the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway helps to cut down travel time between the city and the southern part of Penang Island. Without this expressway, travel time between Batu Maung and George Town will be much longer using the existing Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah. This is an example where building the right road benefits the people of Penang.

    One of the reasons for the congestion in Penang is that we don’t have the right roads. Instead of grade-separated, controlled-access expressways that move people quickly to their destination, we rely on district distributors to do the job. District distributors such as Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Perak Road, Scotland Road, Green Lane and Jalan Air Itam can only take this much traffic. These are not access controlled, they have outlets from people’s driveway. Each time a car pulls out onto the district distributor, it affects the overall speed and traffic flow.

    The survival of Penang’s economy depends on managing its development, industrialization and urbanization. By allowing Penang to continue growing, we allow it to continue attracting investments and businesses. Any attempt to curtail this development – such as forcing people to drive a longer way because we refuse to build expressways that will cut travel time – will eventually force them to evaluate whether they should take their skills to other cities where the standard of living is better. As a comparison, although Singapore has an MRT and an excellent bus system, it also has a good network of expressway. The only expressway on Penang Island is the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway, and even then, it is not fully grade separated.

    Roads exists not only for people, but for goods as well. The existence of expressways allow goods to be moved speedily from point of manufacture to point of export. If we are concerned that building these expressways will create congestion, we should take steps to ensure that these expressways are free from all users except those who need them most. This can be done either through tolls, car pooling discounts, reduced fare for trucks and buses, and other means.

    I applaud your effort in highlighting injustice and upholding social causes. But in the case of the undersea tunnel and expressways, I would urge you to reconsider your opposition to the projects. Once again, instead of fully opposing their construction, let us closely monitor how these will be executed.

  23. We should demand that the state government to appoint AECOM, a global engineering and management support firm with branches in Malaysia and Asia, as an independent consultant to undertake the feasibility study and preliminary study to come up with a proper estimate.
    How do we know whether we have been over charge by the vendors or mLim Guan Eng?

  24. The proposed tunnel is premature at best and a crazy idea at worst. We can all do without the additional traffic that this tunnel will bring especially to what is already a highly congested Gurney Drive area.

    However LGE’s three new highways have my thumbs up. There is nothing in the CAP and Penang Forum’s proposals that will reduce the hours that I spend stuck in the traffic jams.

    The ideal solution will be an efficient public transport system but unless Putrajaya stops treating Penang as its stepchild, the present state government proposals are the best solution for the state.

  25. Guan Eng said that the project is not a rush job. Why there is no feasibility study?

    The initial stage of tunnelling involves the implementation of a feasibility study, which involves site investigation, preliminary drawings, and rough cost estimates. The site investigation is especially important in tunnelling because all of the construction occurs in the unknown expanse underground. In the site investigation, geological analysis is performed to judge what
    the soil, rock types and parameters are in addition to potential risks such as faults, shear zones, ground water, and underground services.

    Often a series of boreholes will be drilled in order to better assess these conditions. In the majority of cases, the proposed tunnel will travel through multiple types of substrate and hazards, making this process even more important. The more information that can be gathered regarding the geological aspects, the more chance there is for avoiding delays and for obtaining more accurate cost estimates since potential issues can be accounted for early on.

    During this stage a preliminary design is put together that is generally considered to be around twenty percent complete depending on the owner’s specifications. This design begins to
    address any planning issues that may be encountered and also allows for a rough cost estimate to be compiled which is helpful to plan for and secure funding.

    Til today, we still have no idea on how many lanes will be built for the undersea tunnel.

    As the tunnelling project advances, the feasibility study is used in order to put together various designs and also to establish an estimate, or tender cost for the project. It is at this point that issues such as health and safety and environmental regulations, consents, and overheads begin to be accounted for in both the design and budget.

    The design will progress from a scheme design (50% complete), to a detailed design (60-80%) to a final issued for construction (IFC) design (100%). With this final design complete, the tender cost for the proposed project can be completed by a cost estimator who has the specialized experience working with construction costs.

    After meeting with the china primer and signed an MOU in April 2011, Guan Eng without any feasibility and preliminary study came out with a cost of RM8billion for the proposed tunnel.

    Throughout this stage designers will often hold public consultations and contact various stakeholders to inform them about the design process and lobby for support.

    Depending on the owner’s preference and contract type, the contractor will typically get involved in the design process before the drawings are IFC.
    This process will normally take a couple of years. But our highly efficient Cheap Minister need only 7 months after signing the MOU to reach this stage.

    The project owner will usually solicit bids part way through the design process to either the public or a select group of contracting firms. These contractors will have a certain amount of time to formulate their bids which are essentially representations of how much it would cost them to construct the tunnel, as well as a complete construction schedule. The number of bids for each project can range depending on the number of contractors available to carry out the project as well as their level of interest in the project.

    A balance exists between contractor’s profit and the ability to be selected for the bid because typically the lowest bidder is selected by the project owner. This is a complicated step since there needs to be a careful balance between detail and time.

    The plan for the project requires enough detail for successful planning and investment gains. Yet without sufficient info and setting out the tendering criterion, Guan Eng can call for a tender …

    … and (a) favored firm (is selected) to build the tunnel in the shortest possible time. A world record indeed!

  26. SL WONG you forget that LGE and the Penang State Govt. govern in the spirit of C.A.T
    Penang Forum is Spot on in highlighting all the various issues pertaining to this proposed Mega Project. Don’t forget Wong that there has been a plethora of CRITICISMS of the Federal Govt when it went ahead with NUMEROUS MEGA PROJECTS.

    However credit must be accorded to LGE and the Penang State Govt. for its good governance in the other aspects of its administration.

    Penang People should take the lead in dropping their ‘KIASU’ attitude and give their cooperation and support for an integrated public transport system. One WORTHY alternative EVERYONE SHOULD consider is Anil’s clamour for Trams to be brought back.

    YES Anil, how about reviving your views on Trams in educating Penangites on such a system as part of an Integrated Public transport system for Pulau Pinang

  27. I agree with the above reasons given by CAP and others. They make absolute sense. We should reduce private transport and increase public transport like in Singapore. Their transport is so easy and timely. We should seriously look at alternative transport in Penang like LRT, MRT or rail. Look if it is a Need? or a Want? Underground sea tunnel is a want – not a need.

  28. I agree with everything except that to ‘do nothing’ is a better option. I am sure all Penangites will agree that the number of vehicles will increase whether or not the state govt builds these dispersal roads. The building of these roads will not cause an increase in the number of cars. The number will increase by itself even if you do not do anything. Also, it is clear that the federal govt cannot be pressured into building public transport. They seem to be enjoying the sight of Penangites stuck in jams. Giving BRIM handouts is a much easier way to woo voters. It does not require any planning or building. Nevertheless, NGOs like Pg Forum and CAP should still try to pressure the fed govt. The dispersal roads will at the very least buy us more time until a miracle happens (either a change in fed govt or a fed govt who changes their mind). Btw, I think the CM has clarified in one of the press conferences that the Air Itam bypass will be the first to be completed, not the paired road to T. Bahang.

    I am for the building of such infrastucture but the other concerns raised here like the winning tender, performance guarantee, details of land swap and toll have to be addressed. Not to mention the dispersal of traffic after the cars arrive at one end. For example, if the bypass takes u straight to Air Itam, will there be a dispersal network at that end or will the cars just bottle-up and get jammed at the exit like what happens on many highways in KL? Enforcement is an even more important issue. What is the point of building more roads if you are going to allow cars to park anywhere they like and narrow the road again? If you were to clear up all the illegally parked vehicles you probably don’t even need to widen any road. If the police can’t do the job, MPPP should at least do theirs by towing these cars away. It is within their jurisdiction. Maybe MPPP officials do not use our roads or they have eyes that see not.

  29. Why LGE is so desperate for this 6.5 billion project until DAP/Pakatan willing to lose votes ???

    Something is not right. Something hidden from our sights. “Ada udang di sebalik batu”.

    So, dear Penangites, do we still vote this LGE party in coming election ??? He seems to think that voters are obligated to vote DAP no matter how/what he did in office.

    What is your stance, anil ??? Should we vote Penang DAP in coming election ??? Penang is CHOKING, you know ???

    p/s: One of NGO/activist (pakatan kakis call him ‘hero’) Wong Tack already joins DAP and expected to contest a MP seat. So, anil, what is your plan ???

    [1] CM: Pakatan willing to lose votes over RM6.3b project (

    • Nobody is obligated to vote anybody or party let alone AH Cheap BN UMNO or LGE & PR but we shall vote LGE & PR for a CHANGE.
      54 years of UMNO BN Ah Cheap corruptibility, scandals, incompetency, racism, religiousm, cronyism, subservience of the peoples rights, mismanagement of the economy resulting in a 16 years deficits, untransparency etc etc etc is enough. Enough is enough.

      Yes we shall still vote LGE & PR. Take the money BRIM 1,2 and many others and vote PR.

      Remember after the GE if UMNO BN and Najib win , he will take back whatever they have given you through taxes and GST. You will have to pay back like the cantonese saying, YIM POON TAI LEI` principal and interest.

  30. Someone once said, hell is the impossibility of reason. With all the logic and rationale put forward, it still looks like we’re heading there. Traffic hell, for one. Goodbye to Penang, as we know it.

  31. Lim Guan Eng will say “although I appreciate your concerns regarding the highway plus tunnel projects and the alternative recommendations for a viable transport system to alleviate traffic congestion in Penang,MY HANDS ARE TIED.I WILL NOT BUDGE.IT’S A DONE DEAL.VOTE DAP & PR OUT IF YOU DON”T AGREE.I WILL LEAVE IT TO THE PEOPLE TO DECIDE”.See past replies by Lge when confronted on this matter in Malaysian Insider & Free Malaysia Today.Sigh,I just hope a level headed person takes over as chief minister after the next election.

    • Well isn’t it good that he announced his plans before the GE? It will be like a state referendum. He has said that he won’t budge on the matter because he feels it is good for Pg. If Penangites think otherwise they have a chance to vote him out of office. And i don’t have to remind ppl that Penangites did that to Lim Chong Eu despite all the good he did. They did it again to KTK when the PORR and PGCC was proposed. They won’t hesitate to show their objection. I trust that Penangites will make a clear decision here again. To have LGE and his projects or to kick him out. After the election, if he remains CM, it is implied that Penangites want these projects. After all in a democracy the majority usually decides even if it means that all dumb and ignorant ppl are on the same side.


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