Penang: An obsession with airports, swap deals and land reclamation

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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.

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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.

Roger Teoh

“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.

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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)
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Anfield
Anfield
15 Jun 2019 4.54pm

BATU KAWAN, June 15 — Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has advised the media against being a stooge to the interest of private sector companies by publishing fake and baseless news.

He said that the media must be professional and responsible towards the reports that they issued.

kaws
kaws
16 Jun 2019 8.00pm
Reply to  Anfield

The Star was quiet after the fake news on airport.

MCA must apologize. This is not check and balance but deceive and lie.

kah seng
kah seng
13 Jun 2019 4.10pm

Who owns the current PIA land? Is it state or federal? I would think state, right?

If there’s indeed a proposal not going through FM, TM, Penang state, it must have gone through PMO or Azmin’s investment and development ministry, right?

kah seng
kah seng
13 Jun 2019 4.12pm
Reply to  kah seng

Also note they are talking in terms of hectare, not acres. So a bigger dimension than often discussed elsewhere.

Fang Yang
Fang Yang
12 Jun 2019 8.10pm

Gerakan has called on Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow to make a stand and protect the Penang International Airport (PIA) in light of two recent airport proposals on mainland Penang.

Gerakan Deputy President Oh Tong Keong said clearly the PIA is being “threatened” by these proposals and is facing the prospect of being closed down.

Kopi O Ah Pek
Kopi O Ah Pek
13 Jun 2019 10.03am
Reply to  Fang Yang

Ah Keong should be active with young breed of non tainted Gerakan on local matters and dont wait till GE15 to raise matter of concern eg plastic corruption and digital library for all communities not just selected ones.

Ma jiji
Ma jiji
11 Jun 2019 3.51pm

There you are ! Here’s a reporting in The Star now on the proposal for new airport(s).
https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/06/11/govt-must-study-airport-plans-first/

Wei
Wei
11 Jun 2019 10.10am

hehe…some eco warrior need to self censor knee jerk post that propagate lies and fake news from MaCAi toilet paper…

tunglang
tunglang
10 Jun 2019 2.46pm

Q: Who is the ultimate decider on developing Penang’s airport or creating another airport, the state gomen or Federal? It now looks like Penang Island is goldmine thro’ swap deals for an opportunistic win-win deal – shift the present airport to another location & let us turn the present airport land to gold! And the sea space is the ultimate sacrificial lamb to build more & more. In spite of property hang hanging for how long. A new paradigm shift to classic lifestyle Feng Shui: che to khua hai (stay on island, view the sea). And welcome to Malaysia Baru… Read more »

tunglang
tunglang
10 Jun 2019 6.04pm
Reply to  Anil Netto

Either the Star is sensationalising a fake news or something was already in the work. Some people must be lying thro’ their teeth to cover up.

Fang Yang
Fang Yang
10 Jun 2019 8.28pm
Reply to  tunglang

LGE denied. So fake news on the Star?
Is MCA the owner of the Star trying to create havoc?

Shriek
10 Jun 2019 10.06pm
Reply to  tunglang

Why Roger talk UK only? Ang Mo always better? Why no mention HK? Why no talk on iconic HK tram? Only narrow body tram in whole world compare to usual wide body tram which Hong land cannot afford. Why not mention Hong land relocate Kai Tak to man made island off Lantau Island and now expand the terminal and reclaiming third runway? Who is making another troll and kbkb??

Milk Tea
Milk Tea
11 Jun 2019 8.31am
Reply to  Shriek

Roger is an intellectual and gem to Penang. Can’t beat Ang Mo still want beat HK? He’s comparing two different airports of similar size. Shriek, Please don’t compare Penang to any Chinese city if you can’t even beat a third tier Ang Mo city.

Shriek
11 Jun 2019 12.02pm
Reply to  Milk Tea

Mabuk with susu? How small is kai tak airport? Roger is drinking your susu when Kai Tak is decommissioning. Further why pommy wants to relocate to Lantau in spite of protest from China. No wonder you dispose President Xi and loves trump. Peng land ang Mo city? Cannot compare to Chinese city?
Why pg ngos don’t use hk trams as example? Hk trams is cheapest in world.
Why pg ngos don’t explain Macau very small place can walk from border to ferry terminal about 45min but still jam with cars and kapchais? You can take casino buses.

Shriek
11 Jun 2019 7.18pm
Reply to  Milk Tea

You want peng land to be ang Mo city to compare with trump’s cities?

Shriek
11 Jun 2019 10.04pm
Reply to  Milk Tea

Ang mos transfer Kai Tak airport to man made island off Lantau no objection but Malaysian does to their own state cannot? Kangaroos are building new air port in Sydney no kbkb. Now those talk about green wants airport, burning fuel and polluting noise wants airport to be a lose to housing

Wei
Wei
11 Jun 2019 10.17am
Reply to  Shriek

why that yet to graduate Ang Mo wannabe never tell us to emulate the Ang Mo to ship out our thrash to other poor countries…?

Ma jiji
Ma jiji
10 Jun 2019 2.23pm

To sum it all, we have voted in an even bigger monster(PH) than the previous BN government !

Ma jiji
Ma jiji
10 Jun 2019 6.52pm
Reply to  Anil Netto

Haha, only if it comes out to be true later ?
黑箱作业(Black box operation – meaning secretly under some steamrollers)!

kaws
kaws
16 Jun 2019 8.03pm
Reply to  Ma jiji

Speaking of black box operation, Penangites must beware of the new scam scheme “S Block”, a revival of JJPTR.

Somehow our authority is not coming hard on that JJPTR chap now on the loose.

Fang Yang
Fang Yang
10 Jun 2019 8.29pm
Reply to  Anil Netto

Better for Anil to verify the news first before causing knee jerk reactions!

The Star sensationalises news to arrest falling readership?

Teddy Bear
Teddy Bear
10 Jun 2019 9.10pm
Reply to  Ma jiji

Many fallen into The Star ultra sensationalization to gain readership? Trust Anil for verified news.

Shriek
11 Jun 2019 7.20pm
Reply to  Ma jiji

Star is the mother of all fake paper and you have been supporting it.