German urban planner Alex Koenig warns that Penang is about to make “two serious professional mistakes” as it plunges headlong into SRS Consortium’s proposal for an RM8bn elevated LRT system from Penang airport in southern Penang Island to Komtar in the George Town city centre.
“I can’t remember any other city in the world doing such nonsense,” he says, of the plan to abruptly end the line in the city centre.
Alex, who was employed by Lahmeyer international, the biggest engineering consultancy firm in Germany, in the 1980s as a transport engineer, believes such mistakes will prove costly in the long-run.
Let’s hear what he has to say:
Previously I commented on the Penang transport masterplan’s elevated LRT and was not taken seriously.
I repeat two serious professional mistakes (are being made):
1. To get electricity supply by a third rail instead of overhead wires would mean that either this line can never be integrated into an LRT/tram system operating on ground level – or any future extensions to the LRT have to be all elevated (or tunnelled).
2. To terminate an LRT line in the city centre instead of building it through to the other side of the city is a serious planning mistake. I can’t remember any other city in the world doing such nonsense. Please help to get these things right before another costly mistake happens.
For Alex, who spent many years in Penang, this is not the first costly mistake the state has made:
When looking into mega projects the source of some difficulties should also not be forgotten. Penang Port Commission had commissioned a German port expert about the relocation of Penang Port to the mainland. I had read his report in the 1970s. The report proposed to locate the new container terminal to be built north of Butterworth in order to allow a short 4km causeway bridge to the island…
Such a causeway bridge could have accommodated a railway link and got expanded for additional traffic lanes similar to Singapore – and all the tunnels and world record bridges would not have been necessary. Who is responsible for that matter?
With the previous BN government having already made a colossal blunder with the location of the container terminal in the past, does the present state government really want to make another expensive mistake for future generations? It will make all those handbags look like petty cash purchases.
Meanwhile, an experienced transport consultant Rosli Khan has called for a review of the Penang transport masterplan:
In the case of Penang, the master plan for the state has not been fully endorsed nor approved by the federal authority. But at a cost of RM46 billion, it is rather expensive and there are calls to review it.
Perhaps, the time is right to undertake such a review while appreciating the fact that for long-term sustainability, Penang Island cannot and should not take in anymore vehicular traffic.
Therefore, the undersea tunnel is a bad strategy, unless it is purely meant as a form of public transport, a rail-based (LRT, tram) system only, but not road traffic.
Instead, some form of congestion charge should be formulated for Penang, the income of which should be used for public transport projects and improvement. Abolishing of tolls for the two bridges is out of the question for now, as it is too regressive.
Footnote: Gamuda, which has a 60% stake in SRS Consortium, is involved in both the KL-High Speed Rail project and the KL MRT3 project, both of which have been scrapped or put on the back-burner. Gamuda’s share price has taken a hit – and it will be even more reliant on the Penang transport proposals.