The BN leader has pledged to abolish toll for motorcyclists who use the Penang Bridge if the BN wins.
(To say that Penang would get nothing if the BN doesn’t win was outrageous. After all, Penang folk also pay taxes to federal coffers; so why shouldn’t the federal government fund essential infrastructure projects that would really benefit the people?)
In response, the DAP leader has vowed that Pakatan Harapan would abolish all tolls on the Penang Bridge if the opposition coalition came to power. This may be a ‘populist’ thing to do to win votes – but does it serve the best long-term interest of Penang?
It seems to be like a contest to see who can save Penangites more cash. This is shortsighted on both sides as it does not consider the long-term environmental impact of encouraging even greater use of private motor vehicles.
Instead, the toll collection should be used as a form of congestion or road pricing to control the flow of traffic into the island. The revenue from toll collection, after setting aside a small sum for bridge maintenance, should be used to finance the construction of sustainable mobility options.
Not SRS Consortium’s expensive shopping list of mega transport infrastructure projects though. Let’s go back to the Halcrow transport masterplan and work from there. If we do that, we won’t need to carry out unnecessary land reclamation (eg the three artificial islands project) for high-end housing (that few Penangites will be able to afford) to finance the mega transport projects shopping list.
Use the Penang Bridge toll revenue to also finance the expansion of the ferry service. Put more ferries into service, build more ferry terminals at different points of the mainland and the island and introduce new ferry routes to crisscross the channel.
The public transport infrastructure should include a cross-channel rail link, an idea that is part of the Penang Forum Agenda 2018. (We missed a golden opportunity to include a cross-channel rail link when constructing the first and second Penang bridges.)