The concession period for the controversial 17-km second Penang bridge is a staggering 45 years, according to a reliable source.
File picture of second Penang Bridge construction site at Batu Kawan – Photo by Anil
And what is this reliable source? None other than the Malaysian Highway Authority’s Annual Report for 2008 – although it doesn’t indicate when the concession period will begin.
At 45 years, the project is the highest among nine highways listed as under construction. Of the remaining eight, two are for 40 years each, and the rest 33-34 years. So why is the second bridge so special to warrant 45 years?
It is estimated (not from the report) that the bridge could cost RM4.5-5.0 billion – though the final figure is anyone’s guess, knowing our history of major infrastructure projects. Press reports a couple of years ago had mentioned a preliminary figure of below RM3 billion – but later estimates put the figure at more than RM4 billion.
This is likely to be a lucrative project for the main players. Imagine, toll collection from the present 8km-Penang Bridge, which cost about three quarters of a billion ringgit in the mid-1980s, has resulted in the initial investment being recovered several times over.
The second bridge will connect Batu Maung on the island with Batu Kawan on the mainland and link up with the North-South Highway, making it a total length of 24-km.
The work is divided into three packages:
- Design and construction of the main navigation span, foundational work and sub-structure for the approach spans.
- Design and construction and completion of the main structural work for the approach spans.
- Construction and completion of the overland highway including the construction of a multi-level interchange at Batu Maung and Batu Kawan.
The concession firm is Jambatan Kedua Sdn Bhd, a special purpose vehicle of the Finance Ministry.
The firm appointed Chec Construction (M) Sdn Bhd (China Harbour Construction Company or CHEC) on 20 October 2008 to handle Package 1, which could be worth over RM2 billion.
Package 2 (about RM1.5 billion?) could go to a large GLC (UEM?).
Package 3 is likely to go to local contractors with local financing.
As at 31 December 2008, preliminary work on land surveying, dredging and a temporary jetty had begun. The completion date is now expected to be 2013.
If the concession period is really 45 years, the astronomical profits from the toll incurred by commuters will go to the federal government via the concession firm.
It woudn’t be so bad if some of this toll collection is used to improve public transport in Penang. But look at the state of our public transport.
Actually, why not just increase the number of ferries and improve the overall service with more routes? Also, construct a rail link near the present Penang Bridge. And, on the present bridge itself, introduce a shuttle bus service. All this would be more sustainable and less of a long-term financial burden for commuters (think of the savings in petrol and toll)!