More land reclamation rights reportedly will be handed over to the companies building the controversial 6.5km Penang tunnel and other road projects.

Why are we putting in more infrastructure for cars rather than public transport? Who approved the tunnel project? Who approved the RM8b cost for these projects?

Was there any discussion and planning? This is being done before the Penang Transport Master Plan is ready or any public feedback is received. While China is investing big-time in more sustainable transport (railways), here we are inviting Chinese firms to build a tunnel and roads for private motor vehicles. This at a time when oil/petrol prices are destined to rise and the island is getting choked with cars. How short-sighted can we get?

How much land will be given away and what does “nearby reclaimed land” mean? How many acres are we talking about? Over 700 acres (assuming reclaimed land is valued at around RM250psf going by the Bayan Mutiara valuation)? No land for affordable housing but plenty of land reclamation rights to give away?

Does this mean, with this land swap deal, the tunn

Has there been any serious discussion and debate in the Penang State Assembly about this? Is this going to be presented to the public as a fait accompli like the Spice convention centre? The tunnel project is not just at MOU stage as it has been announced that work will start in 2013 (see below).

Excerpt from a report in The Star:

Foreign giants keen on RM8bil Penang infrastructure jobs

GEORGE TOWN: Several foreign giants apart from China’s Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG), namely Citic Group of China, South Korea’s SK Group, as well as couple of Japanese conglomerates and one Singapore company have expressed interest to bid for some RM8bil worth of infrastructure jobs in Penang.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the funding of these crucial road works would be done via a land swap.

“We will finance these projects by land swap as they are expensive. The land will be nearby reclaimed land, which means they will own a certain acreage. These companies appear to be interested (in these projects) even though they involve a land swap. We might as well use something to improve traffic,” Lim said in an interview after opening the one-day investPenang seminar organised by ECM Libra Financial Group Bhd recently.

The interested parties, according to Lim, had been told to submit their request for proposals (RFP) which would also include their recommendation on land usage by year-end.

In April, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Penang government and BUCG for a proposed traffic-alleviation project. Even so, Lim said the RFP was open to other interested parties apart from BUCG.

The projects include the 6.5km tunnel job (from Gurney Drive to Butterworth) which takes up the bulk of the RM8bil cost, the 4.2km Gurney Drive-Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu bypass, and 4.6km Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu-Bandar Baru Air Itam bypass. The proposed tunnel project will be the third link between Penang and Butterworth.

“We need to find a way to disperse traffic and with these projects, we will complete the loop. We’ve revived the idea of a third link and want to get it done,” he said.

The pricing for the third link, said Lim, would be higher as “people still use tunnel as it’s shorter … about one quarter length of the second bridge.” He expects work on the project to start earliest by 2013 although he would like it to start the end of next year if he had his way.