From an initial estimate of US$4.6bn to the current estimate of US$6.7bn (RM27.3bn) and counting – a huge cost overrun for Hawaii’s 20-mile (32.2km) elevated rail system.
The RM27.3bn price tag works out to a staggering RM847m/km and, when completed, it could be the most expensive transit system on a per capita basis in US history. And the Penang government wants an elevated LRT system.
The Penang state government’s project delivery partner, SRS Consortium, tells us that elevated LRT can be built in Penang for RM220m/km.
Penang and Hawaii have some similarities: never far from the sea, a tourist destination; a laid-back atmosphere (fast vanishing in Penang!); an almost similar population size with diverse cultural heritage; and a reliance on cars and to a less extent, buses.
So check out the New York Times’ list of concerns in a feature Hawaii struggles to keep rail project from becoming a boondoggle (white elephant):
KAPOLEI, Hawaii — From the start — when Honolulu officials began talking about building a 20-mile elevated train line near the southern coast of Oahu — there were concerns. How much would it cost? What would it do to the character of a state that has long celebrated its natural beauty and isolation? Can an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean handle the kind of ambitious public works project one would associate with urban centers like Boston and New York?
“It’s a disaster. In my view, we are worse than how we expected,” said Panos D. Prevedouros, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Hawaii, who has twice run for mayor opposing the project. “We were saying at the beginning we would be lucky if it could be done for $6.4 billion, and people thought we were close to lunacy. We are sitting here today, and we are now computing about $7.1 billion cost.”
“We have become numb to these numbers,” Mr. Prevedouros said. “But it’s very dear for a small place like us, with only like 400,000 taxpayers.”
Over here… already, the figure for the Penang airport area to Komtar elevated LRT appears to have soared. Last year, press reports mentioned a figure of RM4.5bn for a 17.5km light rail route. But like Hawaii’s rising project estimates, the estimated cost mentioned these days for Penang’s 24km elevated LRT (phase 1) has jumped to RM6.2bn (including land acquisition costs). That works out to RM356m/km – or RM220m/km (excluding land acquisition costs).
In the video on Hawaii above, an expert recommends buses and trams along certain corridors for Hawaii as a viable alternative. That’s exactly what Penang’s initial consultants Halcrow (to whom the state government paid over RM3m) recommended.
For the 17.4km airport to Weld Quay route, Halcrow had recommended a modern tram system – shared at street level along a certain stretch, with a segregated lane along another stretches and elevated along yet other stretches.
This is the Halcrow alignment:
This would have cost:
– RM40m/km for a 7.0km street-level stretch,
– RM50m/km for 3.7km of segregated lanes at street level, and
– RM80m/km for 6.7km elevated stretches,
So the bill for Penang works out to be around RM1bn. Too cheap for us-lah! (By comparison, the just completed Kaohsiung street-level light rail system, elevated along certain stretches, in Taiwan works out to RM90m/km.)
Enter SRS Consortium with their proposal for an elevated LRT for a cool RM6.2bn. How nice… so now we can reclaim more land…