Traffic jam on the Second Penang Bridge in 2020? Toll $$$ for UEM
In July 2007, the estimated cost of the second Penang bridge was RM2.7 billion.
By October/November 2007, it had crept up to RM3 billion.
By January 2008, it was between RM3 billion and RM4 billion.
In April, we were told it would come to RM4.3 billion! (See 10 reasons why the second Penang bridge is not a great idea.)
Now we learn that that figure of RM4.3 billion does not include quite a few things:
Preliminary estimate of land acquisition – RM110 million (final estimate could be higher, no?)
Compensation to fish and cockle breeders – RM110 million
“Project development costs” (whatever that is) – RM285 million (apparently not yet finalised)
This brings us to a grand total of RM4.8 billion – and rising. There is also a kos variasi harga (Price variation cost? What is that?) – for which no figure was provided.
From RM2.7 billion in July 2007 to RM4.8 billion in May 2008. That’s a 77 per cent hike in 10 months – amazing! And work has barely started… Watch out for the squabbles between the Chinese and Malaysian partners as to who should get a bigger slice of the inflated profits.
The contract was awarded through “rundingan terus” (direct negotiations) – otherwise known as kow tim – to UEM Group Berhad. UEM is the parent company of Syarikat Penang Bridge Sdn Bhd, which holds the concession for the existing Penang Bridge, which has raked in a profit many times over its original cost of RM750 million.
The official reason for awarding the second bridge contract to UEM was to prevent the “cannibalisation of the first bridge” and to avoid competition that would “menjejaskan daya maju jambatan yang pertama” (affect the viability of the first bridge). Don’t ask me what that means. That was the oral response on 4 May to a question put forward to the Prime Minister in Parliament by the Bayan Baru MP Zahrain Mohamed Hashim. I suspect the real reason the second bridge was awarded to UEM is that they all know that if the second bridge charges much higher tolls than the existing Penang Bridge, nobody will use the second bridge! It’s as simple as that.
Up, up and away! It’s a bird; it’s a plane; no, it’s the cost of the proposed second bridge… soaring into the Penang skies.
Scrap it and build a shorter cross-channel rail link. Think of more sustainable, environmentally friendlier alternatives. Come up with a public transport masterplan for the whole state.