Penang’s shortsighted RM8bn tunnel-highways mega project

Penang’s shortsighted RM8bn tunnel-highways mega project

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The RM8bn mega tunnel-and-highways mega project mooted by the Penang state government is cause for much concern among those who desire a more sustainable long-term solution for the state.

For one thing, it panders to the interests of those with private motor vehicles and will result in even more congestion for Penang in the long term.

It is even more surprising that the state government is going down this route when the Penang transport masterplan, which was supposed to be finalised and made public early last year, is still under wraps.

But one thing is clear: the consultant for the Penang transport master plan (Halcrow) had revealed during one of the workshops in 2011 that most Penangites surveyed desire more sustainable transport options and not more highways etc.

The consultant had come up with two options: a highway-based option and a ‘balanced approach’ (which focuses on improving public transport). Under the highway-based option, the consultant had to include the tunnel-highway-based option because that was what the state government wanted. I myself overheard him asking a Penang state exco member if the project was indeed on. (After all, the state government is paying the consultant RM3.2m.)

Not surprisingly, most people at the workshops opted for the public transport-based ‘balanced approach’. One of the questions asked by Halcrow in the survey was, “Do you agree that the Longer Term Transport Vision should be based primarily around building new roads?” Of the 800 people who responded to the questionnaire, only 34.2 per cent agreed to this long-term vision while 57.0 per cent disagreed and 8.8 per cent were undecided. “This compares with a total of 82% of respondents who supported the improvement of public transport through selecting the Balanced Approach Vision,” the consultant noted. So why is the state government riding roughshod over the majority view and pushing through its tunnel-and-highways mega project?

And how is this mega project going to be financed? By a land swap? If so, how much reclaimed land will be involved and where is it located exactly? Developers and contractors must be salivating at the prospect of lucrative property development projects on even more super prime reclaimed sea-front land. Is this the real reason for this mega project? How much would the gross development value be for this reclaimed land compared to the RM8bn tunnel-highways cost? These questions demand answers in line with CAT.

It is not fair for the state government to use the RM8bn mega project as a bait to win votes. While I can understand that many among the public are concerned about the present congestion, they are not being presented with alternative more sustainable options for the long-run.

On the one hand, the Penang Green Council, set up by the state government, is looking at how to encourage the public to reduce the state’s carbon footprint; but on the other hand, the state government wants to push through this unsustainable tunnel-and-highways project, which will result in increased emissions from private motor vehicles. Is the state government oblivious to this glaring contradiction? Are the Penang Green Council and the Penang Transport Council (were their views even considered?) mere greenwash initiatives for the state government to look good?

It is a fact that new highways and roads quickly fill up with traffic. Just look at the increasing congestion along the Jelutong Expressway. Look at how the additional lane along the Penang Bridge has rapidly filled up.

Why not do the groundwork now for more sustainable transport options instead of putting in place infrastructure for more private motor vehicles that will be hard to remove later?

The state government conveniently says it can’t do much about public transport because it is a federal matter. (If the state can’t do anything about public transport, how did it come up with the Bridge Express Shuttle-bus Transit, a commendable initiative in collaboration with RapidPenang?)

But now, not a few people believe that the prospect of Pakatan taking over Putrajaya is not impossible. Why then is the state government rushing to make an announcement about tunnels and highways at this time, just weeks before the general election – when it could introduce real improvements to public transport if it captures Putrajaya? Is it pandering to the influential developers’ lobby, some of whom are believed to hedge their bets with both sides of the political divide? Or is it stuck in a 20th century time warp with misguided visions of ‘development’ based on more cars and highways and (half-empty) skyscrapers – you know, the BN type of thinking?

It is unfortunate that the Penang state government is muddying the real desire for change in Putrajaya by dangling such an unsustainable mega project as bait. It is a short-sighted recipe for a longer-term congestion nightmare. (To show that it is really different from the BN, Pakatan should be campaigning instead on the back of a pledge to improve public transport and promote sustainable transport options throughout the country.)

Most disappointing.


  1. Affordable housing Low / Medium cost housing is under the state government jurisdiction you know that Penang is the only state that allows developers to pay development charges instead of physically building low cost units? The developers are more than happy to pay because they will recoup the cost by selling at higher prices so in the end the purchasers foot the bill..thats why property costs a bomb in Penang..Developers can only allowed to substitute building low cost units with monetary contribution if the State Planning Committee approves and the SPC is chaired by the CM…only in Penang..

  2. The whole project sounds like Dr.M/Umno styles of Keynesianism in practice.

    Bare in mind that, there is one huge propaganda machine out there promoting “BIG MONEY economy ripple effect” bulls…. Even though all out Keynesianism model already bankrupt in practice, but you cannot underestimate stupidity for those continue to subscribe to mainstream media. So this is politics.

    On the other hand, IMHO, LGE is not bold enough to bring out sustainable master plan. What is the direction of Penang state? Is he too busy to patching stuff that left behind to Koh and forget about the long term?

    No matter how good the Pakatan Rakyat memo looks like , Mr Lee Guan Eng should show everyone about state master plan, which is currently MISSING from ALL Malaysia state government. The old horse,jibjib and all propaganda machine will definitely laughing on those ambitions, but it is up to the people scrutinise the details who cast the vote. Again, this is politics.

    Since Mr Lim Kit Siang is doing a count down on jibjib government , is there something better than the 8 billions ringgit bridge, but a visionary call from Mr Lee Guang Eng? I will keep my finger cross.

  3. Today’s The Star comes with a 16-paged Mah Sing property supplement, unfortunately none of its project is considered affordable to recipients of BR1M. Why our housing ministry not mandating developers to build affordable housing is beyond me.

    Also Wong Chun Wai is reminiscing about the good old Gurney Drive in a double page article with pictures – this is giving Tunglang a real competition in the memory lane of Penang.

  4. Ah Soon Khor- You have persoanl grudges and so many bullets against LGE, election is coming and please stand against him.Otherwise just another empty vessel and armchair critic.

    What kind of malaysian engineer you are and knows nothing. Is the Penang State and people like Ah Soon Khor going to pay for all the preliminary studies relating to the tunnel. Europlus received the concession to built the West Coast Highway and MCA/Gerakan Government is going to pay for all the preliminary studies. No wonder MCA/Gerakan Federal Government acting like a private bank provide money to Sybas – a private company

    • Your loving CM can paid RM100 for his photo session blitz and allow Najib to spend billions to bribe the voters without any protest. You has the gut to tell me thathe has no money to spend for whatever preliminary reports. I don’t have to stand agaist him as a candidate. All I need to do is stand against him on all the relevant issues affecting the people already enough to rock the boat to Komtar 28th floor. I enjoy to be the King maker, the giant killer. If your Lim Guan Eng is a man worthy of supports, you should not have a knee jerking reaction to my simple comment.

  5. Why so naive? If LGE has not done the feasibility studies, has the developer and financer did their studies? Has preliminary enginneering studies been carried out. If Soon Khor thinks that DAP will lose, the developer and fanancer has 110% confidence? All of you very shallow thinking. 8Billion is not 8K as the developer has to makan and make profit and answer to the shareholders. Further if soil conditions are very bad, 8B become 80B.

    How can one restrict another malaysian from buying houses in Malaysia. Yang might as well stop other people from buying Char Keow Teow, Kopi kau2, hokkien mee in Penang. They come to Penang and resulting in increase in food prices. If you can stop people from coming to Penang to eat resulting in cheaper price, then you can also result in cheaper housing.

    • King Kong if you want to do a twist go to Shanghai Club.
      Your loving CM said that Penang’s mega road project will only be carried out if the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report deemed it feasible. He said the project – estimated to cost RM8 billion – would be scrapped if found to be unsuitable.
      “Surveys and feasibility studies will be carried out and we will not proceed with the project if the studies show that it is not suitable. The technical specifications will be sorted out once the tender has been awarded”- Lim Guan Eng
      This mean that there is no feasibility study yet. He expect the developer to provide the feasibility study after the award of contract. The feasibility study should be conducted by an independent authority not the developer. You like all the stupid and dumb supporters of Lim Guan Eng, not only dare to lie , twist and turn the fact and spin at will, thinking that the rest of the world are fools. ? If cheating is the way to win, I can guarantee you that BN is more capable than PR. You will be defeated not because the people don’t vote for PR but cheated by BN because of all the dumb and dumber out there try to out do BN on what they know best.

  6. Lim Guan Eng said he has the blessing of Penangites for his mega project, but he dared not reveal the feedback received by his Transport Master Plan consultant. The consultant said that majority of those surveyed want a sustainable transit option not more road building or expansion. Knowing that majority of Penangites would love to kick BN out of power in the coming election, Lim Guan Eng is trying to force this mega project into the throat of Penangites. Just like his predecessor, Lim Guan Eng until today still refuses to let the master plan see the light of the day.

  7. The economic disparity between Butterworth and Georgetown needs to be given some attention, and having an efficient transport link, the balance in economy [and congestion] can be spread out. It is indeed a shame that the people in the northen part of the mainland Penang are so very far off in their economic standing compared to the island; more so for Butterworth, which is closer to Georgetown than many other urban suburbs on the Island.

  8. The undersea tunnel’s works are suppose to start in 2015.
    Why the indecent haste to push through the projects before the coming election, and why do Lim Guan Eng think he has either the authority or the expertise to make the final decision on our behalf without referring to any feasibility study?
    The feasibility study should be conducted first not after award the contract to the developer.
    If Guan Eng is so confident of defeating BN in the coming election, why complained about the lack of authorities on public transportation? Why the projects should be taken off before election? The truth is that Lim Guan Eng has no confidence defending his administration in the coming election. He also shown no confidence on the ability of Pakatan capturing Putrajaya. He need to ensure that his pet projects are pushed through before it is too late. The people , therefore, find the indecent haste with which the projects were pushed an utterly disregard to public opinion. By imposing his whims and fancy on the local authority to serve his self interest rather than those of the people, Lim Guan Eng has set a very bad and dangerous precedent for the potential abuse of power.

  9. Ong Eu Soon is right about DAP and LGE. Yes they are not as competent as one want to believed. They seem to put the blame on someone else. After winning Penang they put the blame on BN & UMNO., Ok fair enough but after 5 years you cannot again simply put the blame on them again and again. They must solve the problems. I have just f the Exco for housing YB Wong for such a stupid answer when I question him why people from other states can buy LMC house and he put the blame on the developer and ask me to see the developer. I am going to to his service centre and will definitely f him again if he give me another stupid answer. If not for ABU I would definitely not vote for him or DAP again

  10. Wake up and think critically now.

    The CAT is just a political slogan to win votes. I can’t see it in action. Where is Kg Buah Pala minutes, if there is CAT ??? Now another “I help you, you help me” scheme by LGE. Even CNY celebration, LGE also wanted to create issue. That is extreme, that is fanatical. Where is “middle Malaysia” ??? “Middle Malaysia” is another political slogan to win votes by LGE. I just can’t see it in action. Also please look at where is “Pas for all” slogan has gone to ??? What I can see, only Pas Islamic ruling for all including the non-muslims.

    Penang Transport Master Plan also a political tool without substance. You talk one thing and do another, just like this 8 billion project. Other empty promises including all things in BUKU JINGGA and no Pas hudud promises.

    Think again, BN under 1Malaysia PM Najib is slowly improving. Now you can do peaceful demo with the police helping you all the way, no more ISA, bumi-quota slowly relaxed, the teaching of Science and Math reverting back to BM and mother tongue (Tamil/Mandarin), cash aid for low income groups, minimum wages for locals.

    Appreciate the effort by 1Malaysia PM Najib. Don’t follow Egypt footsteps to endless chaos. Do the right thing, vote BN for more improvement, albeit slowly but safely. Why “CHANGE TO PAS HUDUD” when all of us knowing that PAS hudud is non-negotiable[1] ??? You give PAKATAN power and PAS want to implement its brand of hudud. It is as simple as that.

    BN [X] – Pakatan [ ]

    [1] Islamic state aim not negotiable, says Nik Aziz (

    • What is Najib doing on TV advertisement. Trying to lure the Chinese votes. But then he should not be beating the drum. Does he know that that (some drums are made from certain animal skins and could be) haram. Why so quiet by all the UMNO ulamas and that idiot Perkasa Ibrahim together with his patron mkutty.

      • @Yang: Actually I’m very happy to see 1Malaysia PM Najib so involved in CNY celebration. It is good for unity. Don’t politicize CNY celebration. I also support / happy if LGE has done the same. LET’S ENJOY & CELEBRATE now. After that it’s election WAR !!!

      • Its good that everyone is involved in celebrating CNY.

        But the Cheap beat to the drum and that drum is made of skin that (may be) haram to muslim. Why so quiet by Ibrahim and his patron mkutty and and all the Ulamas. Who is politicizing??

  11. But one thing is clear: the consultant for the Penang transport master plan (Halcrow) had revealed during one of the workshops in 2011 that most Penangites surveyed desire more sustainable transport options and not more highways etc.


    It is not fair for the state government to use the RM8bn mega project as a bait to win votes.

    So do penangites support this tunnel or not?

  12. When questioned by journalists on the concession, Lim Guan Eng claimed that the concession would be offered without a government guarantee for traffic volume. When pressed further, how Lim could has achieved it. State public works, utilities and transport committee chairman Lim Hock Seng said the Tanjung Pinang land and other small parcels, and a 30-year concession period to collect toll would be offered to the concessionaire. The concessionaire is allowed to do anything they want on that land. Lim failed to justify the 30-years long concession and did not provide further detail about the concession. It is an amazing change of stand if we look back at how Guan Eng criticised the unfair concessions given to highway operators in the past. Now he is justifying it with a more lucrative deal! If you have short memory, allow me to borrow his criticism on highway concession to criticise his handling of the concession:
    This is unacceptable and giving such a long concession only benefits the few, allowing the toll operator to earn mega profits of pharaonic proportions at the expense of 1.6 million ordinary Penangites especially when the prime land at Tanjung Pinang is estimated to cost a few billions.


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