You’ve got to wonder whether those thinking of these extravagant ideas have the best interests of northern region residents at heart – or if their minds are clouded with property development, construction activity and ringgit signs.
Earlier, we had two airport proposals:
- A new airport on reclaimed island A off southeastern Penang Island
- A new RM1.6bn northern region airport in Kulim
Now, two more proposals. Take a look at this “exclusive” story in the Star, which floats two ideas to literally test the waters.
- A new airport on 5,000ha (12,400 acres!) of reclaimed land off Parit Buntar, Perak (plus a 57km monorail… monorail again … link to Penang Island)
- A new airport (650ha) and warehouses (400ha) on paddy land in Bandar Baharu in Kedah, near the border of Penang, Kedah and Perak. That would come up to 2,600 acres. A figure of RM10bn has been floated.
Notice the land swap proposal to build a new airport in exchange for developing the existing site of the Penang Airport, which happens to sit on prime coastal land in the south. The value of the land is reportedly about RM7bn. Imagine what the gross development value is like.
[Update: The Ministry of Transport has now denied knowledge of the latest two proposals.]
All this is not much different from an apparently aborted proposal not so long ago to build a new air force base in Butterworth at a different location in exchange for developing the present site of the base in Teluk Ayer Tawar along prime sea-front land.
And so the love affair with swap deals continues.
How do we square all these plans with with Roger Teoh’s view last November about the existing Penang airport; “There’s the airport in Penang, do we need more, expert asks“:
Teoh, citing London’s Gatwick Airport as an example, said the single runway airport had handled 282,000 flights last year, including take-offs and landings.
In contrast, the Penang airport only handled 70,609 flights.
“This comparison shows that existing infrastructure can be utilised more efficiently, where the number of aircraft movements in the existing runway in PIA can handle at least four times more aircraft movements with further optimisation,” said Teoh, who is currently pursuing a PhD in transport studies at the Imperial College in the UK.
He said optimisation to boost the Penang airport’s capacity could be easier to achieve.
“The airspace above Penang is not congested relative to the London airspace, that is one of the busiest in the world,” he added.
He also questioned the Penang government’s projection that the airport in Bayan Lepas will reach full capacity in 20 to 30 years.
Teoh said the projection would depend on assumptions on population growth, gross domestic product and air travel demands.
“The further we extrapolate in time, the larger the uncertainties in our forecasts. It is not necessary to try to solve a problem today where it could only emerge in 30 years.”
Bear in mind that both airports have runways of comparable length (Penang – 3,352 metres; Gatwick – 3,316 metres). But 46 million passengers fly through Gatwick annually – almost six times more than the 8 million passengers going through Penang airport.
So why waste time talking about building more airports. Why not just optimise Penang airport first.
At present, the airport is in the midst of building a seven-storey car park to provide 1,700 extra parking bays. (This is supposed to create a more “joyful airport experience”. That’s what the notice at the construction site says – no kidding. Never knew a multi-storey car park could create so much joy – even if you have to pay for that joy!)
Maybe all we need is a bigger passenger terminal rather than a new airport. Check out what public transport whizz Cameron Kang has to say:
It tells you a lot that in all these fanciful discussions of new airports, swap deals and land reclamation, two crucial issues are rarely discussed, if at all:
- the loss of food security (the loss of fishing waters or paddy land and the erosion of domestic supply of rice or fish) and the traditional more sustainable way of life in these areas
- the impact on climate change (years of construction activity followed by the emissions from added air travel)