The state government, in trying to defend the mega Pan Island Link highway project (proposed by a major contractor and two Penang-based property developers), has lambasted critics for posting “misleading visuals” which it described as “fake”.
It then showed a ‘genuine’ visual of the highway over the Youth Park – a view from above and from a distance – taken from the environmental impact assessment of the RM8-9bn highway. But where are the visuals of the massive six-lane highway from ground level inside the Youth Park so that we can see this behemoth in all its concrete glory? Why not show us this instead of a fancy artist’s impression (from a distance, from above) of a small Penang Bridge-kind of highway gliding over a sea of greenery looking oh-so-picturesque. Who is misleading whom? We all know how ‘genuine’ artists’ impressions can make even the most monstrous projects look so appealing and green.
Where are the ‘genuine’ visuals at ground level of the 10 acres of Youth Park land that will be acquired for the highway? Where are the ‘genuine’ visuals at road level of all those access roads and interchanges along the highway, including at Western Road?
Where are the ‘genuine’ visuals at ground level of the six-lane elevated highway along Gottlieb Road and Bagan Jermal Road in front of the Penang Chinese Girls High School and the St Nicholas School for the Visually Impaired?
Where are the ‘genuine’ visuals and artists’ impressions at ground level of the highway pillars sticking into the Sungai Ara Linear Park? Where are the visuals of the river which alarmingly will be ‘straightened’, presumably to accommodate the fat highway pillars on the river banks.
Was a visual impact assessment done?
As for the visual of the highway flying over the Penang Hill railway, wasn’t this what the Penang Transport Council, of which I am a member, was told? We were told there would be a 2km elevated stretch hugging the hill above Air Itam flying over the Penang Hill railway and an area behind the Kek Lok Si. When was this changed to a tunnel below the hill railway? Were all the council members told of this major change in the plan? How will the extra length of the tunnel to over 10km (from over 7km previously?) affect the cost of the highway?
I blogged about that amazing flyover 19 months ago in January 2017 and put in an image someone had designed (with the caption “an artist’s impression”) depicting the flyover over the hill railway? Why did it take 19 months for the state government to say that image was false? When was the plan changed? Where is the ‘genuine’ visual of the tunnel beneath the hill railway?
In any case, wasn’t it true that this 19.5km highway was first supposed to be four-lanes and then extended to six-lanes and then the tunnel lengthened to over half (over 10km) the distance. What was the increase in cost each time such a change was made? Who decided on these changes and approved the extra cost? Was the Penang Transport Council briefed on the changes in cost each time? Did they agree to the changes?
This is why I say the Penang Transport Council is useless, a sham. Just a top-down briefing session with state government leaders listening with much awe and reverence to the representatives from the contractor, even though the ‘project delivery partner’ agreement had not yet been signed. Strong objections about conflict of interest were just met with stony silence or with less-than-convincing responses.
Let’s get something straight: it was civil society groups in Penang who asked the state government to come up with a transport masterplan. The Halcrow transport masterplan, drawn up at a cost of RM3m, was then adopted by the state government as its official blueprint. Nowhere in the Halcrow masterplan was there any ‘Pan Island Link’. But then this major contractor and two Penang-based property developers came up with their exorbitant proposal for an RM8-9bn highway project ….