Now that oil prices have gone up by 41 per cent and diesel by even more, our planners should scrap the proposed second cross-channel road link for Penang.
If the RM4.8 billion second Penang bridge (all 24km of it, 17km over water) sounded like a bad idea before the oil price hike, today it sounds like a terrible idea in the light of higher fuel prices.
Let’s try this out for size to see how much it will cost the average commuter every month to use the bridge.
- The bridge and approach roads will take up about 24km (17km over sea)
- The average car consumes 10 litres for every kilometre 100 kilometres at cruising speed
- The average commuter has a five-day working week, which means roughly 22 working days/month
- Petrol price is now RM2.70/L
- The distance from home to the bridge and from bridge to work-place is an additional 10km each way
- The toll is assumed (conservatively) to be RM10 for a return journey (toll for present bridge, half the length, is RM7)
Let’s measure the distance travelled per month:
24 km x 2 (both ways for return journey) x 22 days = 1,056km
Now we work out how many litres of fuel is needed for this:
1,056km x 10L/100km = 105.6L
And how much will this cost?
105.6L x RM2.70/L = RM285.12
Now let’s work out the toll for the month:
RM10 x 22 days = RM220
So total cost is
Petrol cost RM285.12 + Toll charges RM220 = about RM500 for the month (could be more if the toll is higher or if you work a six-day week), just for using the bridge.
Mind you, this does not include the petrol cost for the portion of the journey from your home to the bridge and from the bridge to your workplace. Say this comes to 10km each way:
10km x 2 (return journey) x 22 days x 10L/100km x RM2.70/L = RM118.80
so add another RM120, arriving at a total of RM620 for the total travelling cost for the month.
What happens if the oil prices rise yet again, perhaps in August, from RM2.70/L to RM4.00/L (an increase of 48 per cent?
(RM285.12 + RM118.80) x 48% = RM193.88, say RM200
This means you could be spending over RM800 per month if you want to use the second bridge to get to work and back. And that’s based on conservative assumptions. If you have a bigger car, work a six-day week and your home and workplace are farther away from the bridge, you could be spending closer to RM1,000/month. Enjoy!
Who knows what the oil price will be like once the bridge is completed.
We haven’t even factored in carbon emissions that contribute to global warming as well as the heat generated during construction.
Now you see why expanding the ferry service makes more sense? And why a shorter cross-channel rail link would be cheaper for commuters besides being environmentally friendlier? Think of all the oil the country would save if regular commuters could leave their cars at home and use modern, efficient public transport across the channel.
I suggest that the additional lane on the existing Penang Bridge be dedicated to buses and trams or exclusively for rail. Or build a dedicated rail link parallel to the Bridge. And expand the ferry service, 24 hours, round-the-clock.