Penang Forum, CAP oppose mega tunnel project


The Penang Forum Steering Committee and the Consumers Association of Penang have both released statements opposing the road-based tunnel project.

Read the CAP statement in The Malaysian Insider.

And the Penang Forum statement is below:

Penang Forum opposes road-based tunnel, serious reservations about highway-building spree

The Penang Forum Steering Committee opposes the proposed road-based undersea tunnel and the state government’s emphasis on highway construction over improvements in public transport.

(The tunnel would be the fourth cross-channel link, after the ferries and the first and second Penang bridges.)

There are just too many unanswered questions (see the list below) that throw the viability of this mega project into doubt.

While it is true that public transport comes under the jurisdiction of the federal government, we feel that ‘do-the-wrong-thing’ approach (promoting dependency on private motor vehicles over the long term) is worse than the ‘do-nothing’ approach.

A more sensible and visionary approach would be to come up with a comprehensive plan for sustainable transport while educating the public and pressuring the federal government to realise that change.

It is true that the federal government now has overbearing jurisdiction over public transport but that may not be the case if there is a change of government in the coming general election or the one after that. Jurisdiction over public transport would then be decentralised.

In the meantime, the state government should lay the ground work for integrated, sustainable public transport in the state. The state government can do the following now:

  • Kick off a campaign to promote the widespread use of public transport among ordinary commuters. State government leaders could show leadership by example by taking the bus or cycling to work wherever possible.
  • Prevent illegal parking (by clamping) to decongest key routes so that bus lanes can be created along certain stretches. A trial run could be carried out at Burma Road, for instance. These bus lanes may also be used by taxis, emergency vehicles and multi-occupancy vehicles.
  • Buy RapidPenang season tickets in bulk and distribute them to target groups such as school children, working adults and senior citizens. Alternatively, the state government could provide full or partial reimbursements to those who show proof of purchase of these season tickets.

The public can be enlisted to do the following:

  • Pressure the federal government through petitions and letter-writing campaigns to increase the number of buses in the state and decentralise public transport decision-making.
  • Turn the quest for improved public transport in the state into a major general election campaign issue.
  • Take public transport to work at least once a week for a start.

We enclose our reasons for opposing the tunnel project and our reservations about the highway building spree.

Penang Forum Steering Committee

19 March 2013


About the vision:

  • Shouldn’t important public policies be based on evidence and analysis?
  • Will building more roads solve traffic problems?
  • Is the public being given an alternative based on sustainable transport?
  • Are we moving to the 21st century or moving back to 20th century with the state government’s emphasis on building infrastructure for private motor vehicles?
  • Does creating dependency on private transport help the poor?

About the process of making public policy

  • The formal agreement for the (Transport Masterplan) TMP was signed in mid 2011. In the same week, the CM announced the signing of MOU for four major road projects with Chinese companies. Does it make sense to have the solution before the study has started? Does this not ignore evidenced based analysis and policies?
  • Concurrent negotiations for the tunnel and highway projects started in 2011 held while the TMP study was underway. Why were awards for the projects given out even before the TMP is finalized and made public?Doesn’t this pre-empt the significance of the report’s recommendations?
  • TMP calls for a balanced approach to solving transport problems. It suggested short and medium term measures and recommended major road construction as longer term solutions commencing after the short/medium-term measures. Are we putting the cart before the horse by reversing the priorities suggested in the TMP?
  • Have there been independent feasibility studies, cost benefit analysis, traffic demand simulation etc done for ALL the four projects before they were tendered? Isn’t it standard best practice to conduct such studies BEFORE tender and award, rather than after?
  • The TMP is based on the assumption that the population will be 2.5m by 2030 and that by this time a sea tunnel may be justified. The Department of Statistics released a population projection last year which projects a population of 1.8m by 2030. It appears that Halcrow has not done any modelling of the population; they have just assumed historical growth rates will continue, which would suggest that the tunnel will not be required even by 2030.
  • How is the public expected to provide meaningful feedback when they are hazy about the precise alignment of the routes? All the precise proposed alignments should be displayed to the public for their comments. State gov should practice transparency especially now that the Freedom of Info Act has been passed?

About the tender

  • If there was an MOU with the China government, how can there be an open tender? Is that why only two bids were received for the tunnel – both involving firms from China? Why were there no other bids from other countries? Because of the earlier MOU? If so, is this really an open tender?
  • Who are the parties behind the three small local companies that were in the winning tender bid? Has there been an evaluation to look into their track record and expertise? Do these companies have any political connections?
  • What kind of performance bonds will the local companies give?
  • Can state govt under the CAT policy make publicly available all the tender documents and acceptances and the decisions of the tender award.

About the reclaimed land

  • What are the plans for the 110 acres of land: how is the use of this land going to contribute to or solve some of our existing problems. Is it going to add to traffic congestion? Is it going to address shortages in public space and how is it going to influence the property market and the price of housing. How much affordable housing will be built on this land?
  • Who is going to develop the land – the local companies within the consortium, the China companies or an external developer? If so, who is the developer and the contractors and do they have any political connections?
  • Can the state government guarantee that there will be a really independent detailed environmental impact assessment for this land? Can it also guarantee that there will be a reliable independentt hydrological study for the entire island and mainland?
  • What is the market value and gross development value of the reclaimed land? Where exactly is this located?

The financial considerations

  • Who will pay for the cost of acquisition of private land that is in the way of the proposed highways?
  • How was it decided to award 110 acres of reclaimed land to the project proponents along with a 30-year concession for tolls? Was there a financial projection of future revenue for both the reclaimed land and the tunnel toll collection? If so, how many billions in profit is the consortium estimated to make? If there is no financial projection, why not and how was it decided to award them reclaimed land in addition to a 30-year tunnel toll concession?

Misguided priorities

  • The TMP puts public transport at a much higher priority than the tunnel. In fact, the TMP consultants diplomatically (given that the tunnel was probably the state government’s idea) suggested that the tunnel would only be something to consider for 2030 and beyond. Why is this being brought forward to “2025-2030” and even earlier now?
  • If a tunnel or other cross-channel link is necessary, shouldn’t it be a rail link? A cross-channel rail link is more important given the completion of the dual tracking to Butterworth and the future high-speed rail linking Singapore to KL and Penang.
  • Why is the north coast pair road from Teluk Bahang to Tanjung Bunga a priority now? Is it being driven by property development considerations? According to the TMP (and it’s clear to everybody), the Outer Bypass between Farlim and Tun Lim Expressway should be built first instead of the north coast pair road. Why is the state government putting it the other way round?
  • Focusing on building roads without addressing the demand for road use will NOT solve the problem. In fact, it might worsen the problem. Have all the highways, tunnels and flyovers in KL and Bangkok solved traffic congestion? If not, why are we going down that path?
  • There are two sides to the equation of traffic problem: the Supply Side (building more roads) and the Demand Side (the demand for those roads caused by more vehicles). What is being done to tackle the rising demand for motor vehicles and road space?
  • Do we realise that greenhouse gas emissions from road transport is one of the biggest contributors to global warming? How are more highways and a road-based tunnel compatible with the state government’s slogan of ‘Cleaner, greener Penang’? Shouldn’t we be laying the ground work for sustainable public transport now?
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Timothy Tye
23 Mar 2013 6.08am

Thank you Gerakan K for raising your point, which I find very pertinent. It is our democratic right to send a strong message to our leader, be he the Chief Minister or the Prime Minister, should we strongly disagree with his position of certain issues of public interest. But before we do that, we should gauge whether the public on the whole is for, against or divided on the issue. If the public is divided, we should find out why and is there a possibility to reconcile both sides. In that way, when we make our stand, our voice is… Read more »

Gerakan K
Gerakan K
22 Mar 2013 3.20pm

Timothy Tye: “Let me make this clear: when I defend the Chief Minister’s position (with regards the undersea tunnel and expressways), I am not defending any particular political party: I am defending democracy. When we, the people, have elected our Chief Minister, we close ranks and follow his leadership, regardless which political party he belongs to. The people cannot allow an entity, whom we do not elect, interfere with the decision of the Chief Minister, whom we did elect. We cannot say, “But I did not personally vote for the Chief Minister.” Once a Chief Minister is elected, the people… Read more »

Timothy Tye
22 Mar 2013 9.41am

Let me make this clear: when I defend the Chief Minister’s position (with regards the undersea tunnel and expressways), I am not defending any particular political party: I am defending democracy. When we, the people, have elected our Chief Minister, we close ranks and follow his leadership, regardless which political party he belongs to. The people cannot allow an entity, whom we do not elect, interfere with the decision of the Chief Minister, whom we did elect. We cannot say, “But I did not personally vote for the Chief Minister.” Once a Chief Minister is elected, the people have spoken,… Read more »

22 Mar 2013 11.00pm
Reply to  Timothy Tye

Commonsense should rule in the minds of the people, not blindness & dogged-tail wagging at every decision made by the executive of a state ie the ruler or leader elected by the people to run the state. In all fairness, the people can question him if there’s a grain of doubt for a better check & balance in the manner of state administration. People first, not leaders. If anyone of us dare to vote for a better Penang, let him also be courageous & forthright to speak out what’s wrong when there is any. Ego is the first word to… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
21 Mar 2013 6.35pm

You don’t need to wait for 20 years for Gurney to have traffic jam. It already jam! Once the tunnel job started it will be worst. After the tunnel job completed it will still jam as most of the visitors will end up at Gurney Plaza and jam up the whole Gurney Drive. This is Guan Eng’s solution for traffic congestion. After spending billion still jam!

21 Mar 2013 3.41pm

Some of CAP ideas is good but sometimes they oppose with understanding the situation. Like the chopping down of trees to widen the road to relieve traffic congestion. Just like Anil opposing the tunnel and road project. Look at Hong Kong tunnel built more than 20 years ago and now congested. LGE foresight 20 years ahead.

23 Mar 2013 12.12pm
Reply to  Anil Netto

Greenhouse emissions are from vehicles, not tunnel.
Root problem is high number of cars on the road.
Provide cheap and reliable publuc transportation is the key.
However Malaysians like cars and many depend on car trade (including repair workshops, accessories shops, petrol stations) for living.
So nobody dare to challenge increasing number of cars on the road.
They choose to focus on tunnel issues because of tunnel vision?

Timothy Tye
21 Mar 2013 2.27pm

Thank you Anil for informing me. I support the right of everybody to express his opinion, including opinion that I don’t agree. Once an opinion is suppressed, we stop being a democracy. I have not noticed the Penang Forum before, but now that I have, the fact that they misuse the term “forum” is driving me to distraction. I have no problem that a group of concerned citizens take stands on issues of public interest, but not when they call themselves “forum”. It’s either they start acting like a forum (even an online forum) or they rename themselves to something… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
21 Mar 2013 6.29pm
Reply to  Timothy Tye

You want Penang Forum to call itself Penang Watchdog? The correct name is Penang Running Dog!

21 Mar 2013 12.52pm

CAP made lots of unfounded claim in Utusan Konsumer. If you trust CAP, then you will have to grow your own food as practically everything sold in supermarket are deemed unhealthy by CAP.

CAP is nothing but a noise maker seeking attention.

Timothy Tye
21 Mar 2013 10.12am

I am incredibly disappointed with the Penang Forum. It runs an article entitled, “Penang Forum opposes road-based tunnel, serious reservations about highway-building spree.” So I left a reply on that article giving my point of view, that the undersea tunnel and expressways are more beneficial than detrimental to the people of Penang. So far, it hasn’t published my reply. As of now, I am still waiting for them to publish my counterargument. For entities that claim to champion local democracy and the voice of the people, it’s very disappointing that when the people do speak, their voice is suppressed… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
21 Mar 2013 1.15am

Hong Kong’s renowned for it’s public transport still has to struggle with the congestion at the Cross- Habour Tunnel. Cross-harbour tunnel tolls may be tweaked to ease traffic congestion Drivers could face a HK$5 increase in the toll for the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, with a corresponding HK$5 reduction for the Eastern Harbour Tunnel, in a plan designed to ease traffic congestion. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he would consult the public on a plan to adjust tunnel tolls during the first half of the year. Although he did not say by how much the tolls would change, a consultant commissioned in… Read more »

Plain Truth
Plain Truth
20 Mar 2013 12.38pm

Moulmien Rise, a totally unnecessary tunnel into what is already a highly congested zone plus an inept Adun – Pulau Tikus is one seat that the DAP may well lose if LGE continues to test the limits of his supporters.

20 Mar 2013 10.50am

People, do your OWN MATH. No sane current day public transport can efficiently transfer people from point to point.. CAP is NOT DOING ANYTHING good proposing 1920~1980 “solution”, that WILL NO LONGER WORK IN REAL WORLD. Sad to say, even as pioneer of consumer rights, CAP is just too outdated in this globalised era. Everyone should scrutinized each option before hoo-ha about the traffics. – Public transport require massive infrastructure, vehicle investment and maintenance. – 4 wheel vehicle take too much space and – 2 wheel petrol-motorised vehicle cause pollution and the reckless riding and ignorance kill (either by themselves… Read more »

20 Mar 2013 9.54am

Eu Soon and Yang can cool off taking Penang Chendol recommended by tunglang.
However, be prepared to pay more now that the sifu Tan is preparing menu ala StarbuckishcumKimGarish style.

20 Mar 2013 11.24pm
Reply to  DCruzoe

Maybe Sifu Tan of Penang Teochew Chendol have abandoned Ip Man’s Tao of Persistency of Purpose (of selling heavenly street hawker Chendol) & was enticed by HongKee Jacky Chan’s Sifu of operatic speedy change of plastic faces for Speedy Gonzales Shorter but Slippery Path to Fame + Fortune. Should we blame it on the contagious Cosmopolitan Penang ‘fever’ of rising cost of living + global-garish concrete development + rich man’s affordable million ringgit homes? I recommend Eu Soon & Yang to head for Penang Hill > Western Hill to meditate on the birds + the bees to open closed minds… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
21 Mar 2013 1.21am
Reply to  tunglang

Penang hill train is too scary, better meditate at the Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve of FRIM Kepong.

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
20 Mar 2013 9.03am

Uncertainly and change in site condition on underground projects often leads to disputes, change orders and claims. Owners usually take years to plan a project, perform geotechnical investigations needed to understand the ground through which the tunnel will be built, and deal with all the regulatory agencies and third party abutters. Lim Guan Eng chose to bypass the feasibility study. No preliminary study or design is available. Contractors are in business to make money. They usually have no input to the project plans, specifications, schedule or contracts but must accept these as given and in the space of a few… Read more »

Lee Hai Soon
Lee Hai Soon
20 Mar 2013 8.58am

We should support the government in building the tunnel. It can be a big tourist attraction for Penang. Also, I agree that it will help create jobs.

HokkienMee Seller
HokkienMee Seller
20 Mar 2013 4.00pm
Reply to  Lee Hai Soon

Tunnel as Tourist attraction? Another Darth Vader’s space-projection tunnel trip?
Where is my Hokkien Mee?

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
20 Mar 2013 12.14am

No real entrepreneur, no real leader will sacrifice the feasibility study, the preliminary study or design to find a short cut to bulldoze thru’ his proposal and ignoring the possible associated riskst. How are you going to mitigate the risk? Plan for contingency?
Putting a cart in front of the horse is a proven solution for failure. Lim Guan Eng just prove to the world how stupid and dumb he can be.

21 Mar 2013 11.54am
Reply to  Ong Eu Soon

Building a tunnel will require the highest expertise required. Don`t tell me LGE will award the project to any Tom, Dick and Harry company. Come on man !!!!

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
19 Mar 2013 11.17pm

I/f Guan Eng really want to buils a tunnel, he should get the help of real professional like AECO/M in the doing the feasibility study, the preliminary study and design, the consultancy on safety aspect of the tunnel. He should not ask for the help from companies like Justeras, Sri Tinggi or Zenith. Even THE China firms are not real designer or consultant, they are merely contractors in building tunnel in China. Without the help od real professional and venture into a highly risky tunnel construction, Guan Eng has shown to the world that he is the most irresponsible leader… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
19 Mar 2013 10.56pm

One of the largest cost factors associated with tunnel construction is determining what kinds of geological conditions exist between the portals or shafts of a tunnel. Modern geotechnical engineers utilize a variety of imaging technologies and boring samples to determine rock type and groundwater penetration. These technologies can provide an acceptable level of confidence in the type of rock that needs to be bored through, but this imaging is neither comprehensive nor fully reliable. Construction management firms will use past examples of projects in any given region to help develop a proper percentage to allot for contingency to account for… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
19 Mar 2013 10.45pm

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO NEGOTIATE FOR SAFETY REQUIREMENT AFTER THE TENDER IS AWARDED? Our fate will at the mercy of the developer. With no-monetary payment under extreme financial constraints, do you seriously think the developer will invest on safety aspect of the tunnel? We are talking about billion dollar tunnel, not a child play. Guan Eng has been very irresponsible for ignoring the collateral consequences of his stupidity in handling the tunnel projects without the help of real professionals.

19 Mar 2013 10.16pm

Forty years ago CAP also oppose factories and the free trade zone to be built in the Bayan Lepas area as the paddy field are so beautiful, green and environmental friendly. If we follows their advise we may not have jobs and food on the table

19 Mar 2013 11.53pm
Reply to  Yang

True, NGOs must sometimes put themselves into the shoes of others. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. They may have certain concerns but there will always be others who will also have different concerns. It isn’t possible to please everyone and often in a democracy, the majority takes precedence even if it means all the fools are on the same side. What’s important and is clearly evident today is the opportunity and the right for people to be heard.

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
19 Mar 2013 10.16pm

What we faced is not just about sustainable or non-sustainable traffic solution. We are facing a problem of a total novice negotiating with the developer without the help of professional in building a billion ringgit tunnel. Does Guan Eng know about safety requirement negotiation? What would happen in the events of cost overrun? Will the state government bailout the developer using our money? With present state of affair where there is no feasibility study, no preliminary study or design, the probability of a cost overrun become more higher. This is especially true when political factor also come to play.

20 Mar 2013 5.22pm
Reply to  Ong Eu Soon

Ah Soon Ghor,

Time is Nigh. Time for your action. LGE has brought this as an election issue. You have many ammunitions to shot at him. You can beat him by contesting against him.

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
21 Mar 2013 6.26pm
Reply to  kingkong

Anwar is considering running away from his base, Permatang Pauh. You think that you guy still have the chance to win? I need to concentrate on the campaign not the contest. I only need to make sure that Guan Eng repeats the result of Tanjung 2. Without Malay support he is nothing, The Chinese votes can only guarantee you total 17 state seats. My chance of ensuring that only DAP Penang win the most seats seem to be very real and achievable. Good luck DAP Penang! I will surely make you win only! Don’t worry I am not defeating byou!

ongeusoonOng Eu Soon
19 Mar 2013 10.06pm

The developer is obligated to provide safety equipment and high levels of insurance. For example of a construction safety cost which must be considered is proper ventilation, which is necessary to provide for the health of workers during construction. These costs can be very high which often results in construction management companies making the bare minimum investment in safety required. Without preliminary study and design how do we ensure that the developer will committed to high level of safety especially when we the Bolehlanders still renowned for lagging behind in safety requirements. Additionally, there are costs associated with providing for… Read more »

Timothy Tye
19 Mar 2013 10.05pm

Dear Anil, Once again I find myself with a differing view from yours. I am concerned that your opposition over the Undersea Tunnel and Expressways will eclipse their benefits, to the detriment of the people of Penang who often support all causes without much personal evaluation. Being an influential blogger, you should rightly use your position for the best benefit of Penang. However, in the case of these infrastructure projects, I believe it is in the best interest of the people of Penang that we lend our support to the Chief Minister in constructing these roadways. Instead of objecting to… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon
Ong Eu Soon
19 Mar 2013 6.03pm

We should demand that the state government to appoint AECOM, a global engineering and management support firm with branches in Malaysia and Asia, as an independent consultant to undertake the feasibility study and preliminary study to come up with a proper estimate.
How do we know whether we have been over charge by the vendors or mLim Guan Eng?

19 Mar 2013 6.01pm

The proposed tunnel is premature at best and a crazy idea at worst. We can all do without the additional traffic that this tunnel will bring especially to what is already a highly congested Gurney Drive area.

However LGE’s three new highways have my thumbs up. There is nothing in the CAP and Penang Forum’s proposals that will reduce the hours that I spend stuck in the traffic jams.

The ideal solution will be an efficient public transport system but unless Putrajaya stops treating Penang as its stepchild, the present state government proposals are the best solution for the state.

Ong Eu Soon
19 Mar 2013 5.55pm

Guan Eng said that the project is not a rush job. Why there is no feasibility study? The initial stage of tunnelling involves the implementation of a feasibility study, which involves site investigation, preliminary drawings, and rough cost estimates. The site investigation is especially important in tunnelling because all of the construction occurs in the unknown expanse underground. In the site investigation, geological analysis is performed to judge what the soil, rock types and parameters are in addition to potential risks such as faults, shear zones, ground water, and underground services. Often a series of boreholes will be drilled in… Read more »