The Penang government intends to build a 6.5km tunnel from Gurney Drive to Butterworth, in addition to earlier announced highway-tunnel stretches.
The Penang state government this morning signed an MOU with Beijing Urban Construction Group Co Ltd (BUCG) chairman Liu Longhua, witnessed by Najib and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. The deal also covers two other projects announced earlier this week – two stretches of tunnels and elevated highways, 8.8km in all.
Of course, this is only an MOU, meaning nothing is cast in stone, but the firm from China is a major corporation.
Personally, I think what is needed now is actually a cross-channel rail link that would move people away from private motor vehicles. But as a rail link would come under federal jurisdiction (which is a shame, as such matters should be decided at the local level), it does not look likely in the near future.
The consultants of the transport master plan may be in a dilemma as more roads and tunnels will only encourage the growth of private motor vehicles. I think we should give them a chance to come up with sustainable proposals. By the way, the Penang Island Local Plan (not yet launched) was made without a transport master plan and, from what I hear, the permissible densities in some areas assumes unrealistically high public transport usage (given current rates of usage).
Some points need to be considered:
- If these tunnels and highways are serious projects, where is the money coming from?
- What is the quid pro quo, if any, behind these deals? Land exchange could be involved. Care must be taken to ensure that the people of Penang do not lose out.
- All these projects need to be discussed and debated in the MPPP, the Penang State Assembly and the Penang Transport Council before any final decisions are made.
- The views of the Penang public should be sought.
- We also need to consider seismic activity in this region.