If you remember, the Penang state governrment allowed its controversial cross-channel tunnel project to piggyback on the Penang state transport masterplan. The tunnel was not the masterplan consultants’ idea, but the state government somehow got the consultants to tack the ill-conceived mega project onto the masterplan.
In the same way, will the state government allow its cable cars idea to piggyback on the Penang Hill Special Area Plan, even though there is opposition to the idea? The cable cars are not included in the SAP itself but are likely to be quietly tacked on to it.
Why are cable cars up Penang Hill a bad idea?
One, the new ‘Speedy Gonzales’ express trains up Penang Hill have increased passenger loads, pushing the number of people heading to the hill-top at close to or surpassing the 10,000 people/day carrying capacity of Penang Hill as anticipated in the Penang Hill Local Plan.
We must stick to this carrying capacity limit in the existing Local Plan and any attempt to raise the capacity under the SAP should be opposed. Otherwise, the tranquility and charm at the hill-top will be irretrievably lost. (What a silly idea to introduce express trains up the hill, in the first place, when the thrill of going up the hill lay in the slow ride through the majestic jungle, watching monkeys perched by the track – watching them watching us – and listening in awe to the songs of the cicadas in the forest, breaking the silence.)
Two, if cable cars are introduced, it will add to the visitor traffic on Penang Hill. This will then add property development pressure at the summit. Property developers will be salivating over the prospect of building more resorts and hotels up the hill-top. Penang Hill could then turn into another Genting Highlands.
Remember, the people of Penang saved Penang Hill from development pressure in the early 1990s. The campaign to Save Penang Hill may even have contributed to then chief minister Dr Lim Chong Eu’s sensational defeat in the 1990 general election.
Three, where should the base station for the cable cars be located? At the Youth Park or nearby? Wherever it is located, it will inevitably worsen the existing congestion and parking problems at the sites being considered.