Tunnel vision in Penang highway agenda


Yesterday, representatives of Penang Forum raised serious concerns with the Penang state government over the three highways and tunnel project.

During a two-hour meeting with state government representatives, including the Chief Minister, and the press, the activists (including me) registered their serious concern and opposition.

By building more highways and a road-based tunnel, the state government will be facilitating the movement of more cars instead of encouraging people to use public transport.

The Pakatan’s manifesto promises better public transport. But the state government plans to spend RM27bn in the coming years, according to Penang transport master plan estimates. Out of this, RM17bn will be for highways and only RM10bn for public transport. Surprisingly, the state government seemed unaware of these figures, which have not been disclosed to the public. It is a great pity that most of the money will be to create even more dependency on private motor vehicles.

Building highways and a road-based tunnel is at best an expensive short-term solution – funded by toll collection from the public and luxury property development (watch what happens on the 110 acres of reclaimed land used as ‘compensation’ for the project). What happens when these get congested? We will be back to square one or even worse. The Jelutong Expressway itself is rapidly filling up – and that is even before the second Penang bridge is completed! Similarly, the Penang Bridge, with a new additional lane, is becoming increasingly congested. So too the highway on the mainland leading to the Sungai Dua toll booth.

The state government says the highways and tunnel will only proceed if the EIA is approved. But how independent is the EIA process when consultants are appointed by developers and contractors? And we still don’t have a state-wide hydrological study. The EIA process is likely to be a rubber stamp.

The public has not yet been told who the local partners are in Zenith Consortium (apparently, there are five companies involved). Who are the real local players, the individuals, hiding behind the corporate veil?. Amazingly, this information – an important part of the deal – has not yet been provided to the public.

There were only two bidders for the tunnel package out of the four tenders received. Of these two, the successful bid was for RM6.3bn for all three highways and the tunnel. (The other was RM6.6bn.) Only two parties from the entire world bid for the tunnel? Why? And the winning bid from the five-company consortium is to be awarded a lucrative 30-year concession based on the Penang Bridge toll rate. Is the public aware that the Penang Bridge toll collection has raised many times the initial investment cost of the bridge? So this tunnel concession is a highly lucrative award that will reap a bonanza for the foreign and local partners.

The state government claims that “the people want these projects”. (Or is it the case that Big Business wants these projects?) But “the people” are not being presented with serious alternatives. They are being told these highways and tunnel are the solution to the congestion. Of course they will choose what they are being told is the solution. But they are not being given a real choice between sustainable public transport and more highways. In fact, the Penang Transport Masterplan consultants’ own public survey showed that a large majority of the people want a public transport-based – not a highways-based – solution. Why is the state government ignoring this?

Some believe these highways and tunnels are more in line with a vision of Big Business property development and construction contracts than of sustainable transport. (Look at the editorial in Malaysian Insider.)

The state government seems to think that three highways and a tunnel (road-based rather than rail link) will take Penang into the 21st century. This is a fallacy. It will take Penang backwards to the 1970s, when highways were seen as symbols of progress. The reality of the 21st century is that climate change, fossil fuel depletion and higher fuel prices will become even more serious. Congestion will also ruin the environment – which has been the selling point for Penang. Under these circumstances, why is the state government putting in infrastructure to create even more dependency on private motor vehicles? At a time when cities in Europe are discouraging and making it more difficult for people to use private motor vehicles and are putting in infrastracture for sustainable transport solutions, the Penang state goverment wants to take us in the opposite direction!

The state government claims its hands are tied over public transport, which they say comes under the federal government. But Pakatan leaders think they have a real chance of taking over Putrajaya, and public transport is in its manifesto. So why is the Penang government in a big hurry to tie itself down with a highway-based solution instead of promising better public transport if it captures Putrajaya? I find this incomprehensible. Why not campaign on a platform of promising public transport improvements instead of pledging highways and a tunnel? This way it can show there is a real difference between BN and Pakatan.

The state government seems to be capitalising on anti-BN sentiment among voters to push through its tunnel vision. It will then claim that if voters choose a Pakatan government it would be an endorsement of the highways-tunnel. Conversely, it claims if Penangites do not like these projects, they can vote the state government out. The people’s vote against the BN should NOT be confused with an endorsement of some of the Penang state government’s policies. The Penang state government should not mistake anti-BN sentiment as an endorsement of its highway-based and property-centric development model.

The property-centric development model and open property market policy have led to speculation and higher housing prices. The highway-based model, on the other hand, will lead to greater dependency on cars and congestion. Both housing loans and car loans (not to mention car maintenance and petrol bills) constitute a huge chunk of the rising household debt/expenditure and will impoverish many households that are struggling even with their grocery bills.

People are voting against the BN because they are tired of corruption and abuse of power and they want cleaner, more accountable government – not because they love highways and ridiculously priced houses and apartments! So the Penang state government is muddying the clear choice before the voters by throwing the highways and tunnel project into the electoral equation.

We want to see political change at the federal level; so that is why we take no pleasure in pointing out the above. My colleagues and I in Penang Forum are most disappointed at the way these projects are being rammed through on the eve of the general election – with what appears to be the objective of trying to tie the hands of the next government in Putrajaya with this short-sighted highways/tunnel-based option.

This is the CM’s statement on the issue today:

1.6 Million Penangites Will Decide On Pakatan Rakyat’s 4 Highway Improvement Projects Of RM 6.3 Billion And A Proposed Tram System Throughout The State Linking Both The Island And The Mainland.

The PR Penang state government will submit to the will of 1.6 million Penangites, who will decide on the tender award of 4 highway improvement projects of RM 6.3 billion, including South East Asia first underwater sea tunnel from Gurney Drive to Bagan Ajam. The four major highways were recently awarded to a consortium comprising a local company and Beijing Urban Construction Group, a major Chinese construction company that built the Beijing Olympic Stadium Bird Nest.

Should PR win power in Putrajaya, PR is also proposing a tram system throughout the state linking both the island and the mainland. BN’s monorail is inappropriate for a world heritage city like Penang, as its elevated structure will destroy Penang’s charms. As a tram system on level ground would match Penang’s heritage, new alternative roads are required so that existing roads can make way for tram lines.

No To Monorail Yes To Tram

BN’s monorail project will not happen even if BN wins in Penang because of two reasons. One, the monorail would not be permitted by UNESCO and its construction would cause George Town to lose its UNESCO World Heritage city status. Two, BN has never fulfilled its promise when the monorail was first made by former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2006. Neither was this promised delivered when Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak became the Prime Minister. Clearly we have to wait until Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim becomes the Prime Minister, then will there be a tram system.

Public transport is the sole jurisdiction of the Federal government. Even if the state government has the funds, the Federal government can refuse to give licensing and co-operate to allow a public transport system in Penang. This refusal to co-operate was clearly demonstrated when the Federal government refused to accept RM10 million yearly by the state government to provide free Rapid Penang bus rides during peak hours throughout Penang state. The Penang PR state government will not be a do-nothing government and will build new alternative roads to try to make up for the refusal of the BN Federal government to deliver on their promise of providing an effective public transport in Penang.

No To Entry Charges To George Town, Penang.

PR has firmly rejected extreme calls for entry charges for all vehicles entering George Town, Penang as PR is committed to free movement of people within Penang as well as those from outside Penang. To adopt this “Singapore model” to reduce traffic congestion is elitist at best in reserving George Town for existing residents and discriminatory at worse by only ensuring that the well-off can enter George Town, Penang.

Can Teng Chang Yeow Explain Why BN Sold The 940 Acres Of Reclaimed Land in Tanjung Pinang At Only RM1 Per Square Feet?

The Penang state government regrets the lies made by BN Penang Chair Teng Chang Yeow on the tender price, if the federal government has been informed or approved the tender to a joint local-international consortium and relating to the amazing speed in the tender award.

The Federal government was aware of this proposed project as far back as 2011 when both Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak and Chinese Premier Wen Jia Bao witnessed the exchange of Memorandum of Understanding by me for these 4 highway and tunnel projects in Kuala Lumpur. The open competitive tender was called in 14.11.2011 and public engagement with the public was carried out in 2011 briefing them of the project. The entire tender exercise was a transparent and accountable process.

How can these four projects be done with amazing speed when the first will be completed after 2017 and the underwater sea tunnel by 2023-25, even though the state government will try to finish it by 2020? The long construction time is due to the need to comply with Environmental Impact Assessment(EIA) requirements. Failure to comply with EIA would mean that the 4 projects would not go on.

The formal contract is still subject to discussion and is expected to be signed in a few months time and it will not proceed if rejected by the people. Further, the final tender price is not the estimated RM8 billion but RM 6.3 billion awarded to the lowest tenderer, Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd. No cash will be paid but payment will be made in the form of 110 acres reclaimed land in Tanjung Pinang.

For Teng to claim that the reclaimed land is non-existent is a shameless lie as BN had approved the reclamation of 940 acres at a shocking price of RM1 per sq foot and 10% of the land to be given to the state government. Can Teng explain why BN had sold the land at such a low and illogical price of RM1 per sq ft? The PR Penang state government had managed to increase the amount of land to be given the state from 10% to more than 20%, which will be used to finance the construction of the 4 major highways.

The horrible traffic congestion a few days ago on the 1st Penang Brigde due to repairs on the bridge reminds us of the importance of having this 3rd link for the future. Whilst the 3 highways mitigating the traffic congestion to Batu Ferringhi, around George Town as well as Bandar Baru Air Itam and Farlim area is necessary, the 3rd underwater sea tunnel serves another function to spur economic development in Seberang Perai Utara(SPU).

The Penang state will not sit back and do-nothing on traffic congestion by taking the easy way out in blaming the Federal government for failing to provide public transport. Neither will we adopt an island-centric approach but instead develop a state-centric approach that encompasses the needs of the mainland. If there is a bridge linking the island in both Seberang Perai Tengah and Seberang Perai Selatan, there should be a link at SPU to advance economic growth.

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it is time penang replan the whole penang. Like open upmore satelite towns – have all the shopping there. Have factories in butterworth, those work in factories, move to butterworth or near bayan lepas. This is a quick way to cut down the travelling distance. Many ppl like to enjoy sea view yet work in Bayan Lepas….. and they complain of congestion. Ask them to take public transport…….you see they will complain of travelling time……..


Traffic congestion can only be overcome with having less cars on the roads and better public transportation.Why the need for a costly tunnel now?Excessive development must be avoided.Land conservation urgent.


My view is there could be a real need for those few highway, as well as the undersea tunnel. While it is true that more highway will solve the congestion temporarilly, but with the catch up of more car, the road will become congested again. However, not having the road built and with no alternative at this juncture,as the public transport sucks, the # of car will still continue to increase and the congestion will become even worst. In addition, do take note that public transport need road as well. With the new road built in parallel, if the Pakatan… Read more »

Toh Sen Kai

The same with lowering Car and fuel prices wouldn’t solve traffic congestion problems at all. Then again, Malaysians themselves are too used to the luxuries of owning cars at home for their conveniency, so would they consider giving up their cars for public transports should public transports made available near to their homes?

Nk Khoo

Malaysia is a condemned nation whether it’s under BN or PR.

Malaysian politicians are not interested to solve real problems, they are doing mega projects for the reason you know I know.

Green Himpunan refused to accept study by the consultant hire by them, a similar case in Penang where Lim Guan Eng refused to accept recommendation for no undersea tunnel from the consultant hired by his government.

Malaysia Boleh!


Anil, Please shut up. Penang have been stagnant for the pass 20 years after Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu. This is the infrastructure development we are looking for to move forward. It have been done right and also I would said LGE do the right thing with all his hand tie by the BN Federal Govt. Penang must move forward. I would said he is the bravest CM, while other just said and dangling the carrot… He actually does it… I wonder why suddenly all the environment and economy expert suddenly appear to shoot down his brave plan down. This… Read more »


I tend to agree with you, some good roads that disperse traffic would do Pg a lot of good but I am not too sure about Gurney Drive being used as a starting point for the tunnel as well as the by-pass road. To me, less traffic should be brought into the Gurney area because it is already overly congested. Once you create the tunnel there, ppl from all over town will use it to cross, which means that many cars will be driving towards and concentrating in Gurney. Is there a dispersal plan? It is unlike the two bridges… Read more »

Boo Soon Yew

Anil.. it will be good if you can place a link to your updated piece that has CM’s reply to you. This will further enlighten the followers here on what has transpired since your 2 hour “pow-wow”. Personally, my view is that we have some good roads that help disperse traffic.. yet.. from our past practice and scenario.. there are places where building of new roads or even widening of existing ones just cannot work. That’s where REAL consultants (with no vested interests) will be able to contribute their ideas, equipped with the means/software/hardware that they have to eventually convince… Read more »

Nk Khoo

LGE did not bother to heed advice from the consultant hired by his government for NO to undersea tunnel.

He is a big head and dictator, kick him out from Penang is only answer.


Sometimes BN folks don’t even remember what had been done or approved when they ruled the state government previously! So Gerakan just shoot anything they felt like it is an issue… but end of the day they shoot back their own!!! What a joke that a BN state chairman don’t remember Najib was in the signing of MOU ceremony for the tunnel & 3 expressway projects in 2011 with the presents of China government representatives too!!! Or what I can said was Teng CY never do his homework! Shame!!! you are not even qualify to be an opposition leader, how… Read more »

Boo Soon Yew

Well said Travis !! *thumbs up*

Nk Khoo

… my posting was censored.

SL Wong (@wong8898)

Only god knows how to solve this.

By the way, anyone knows if to upgrade a 486 computer with latest Intel processor & without up-grading other components, can work ah?

SL Wong (@wong8898)

After a short afternoon nap. Dream of God talking to me.

Me: Is LGE trustable?
God: If u don’t trust him. Who can u trust?


So you made a stand to sink or swim with your Tokong LGE.As for trust,had Tokong LGE and PR fulfilled any pledges they had made during the last election campaign?He promised so many things like abolishing the toll at Sungai Nyior plaza,restoring the local council elections but what we so far are hearing is “my hands are tied,blame it on the previous government,sue the federal government,under federal government jurisdiction and all sort of excuses.In fact the state government envisaged holding the local council elections in January and should have gone ahead on their own but now his administration wants to… Read more »

SL Wong (@wong8898)

Forgot to mention. The God was wearing a yellow shirt with printing of *No More Bullshit*.


If you haven’t noticed, many Penangites are already moving to the mainland, as it is no longer feasible to purchase a property on the island for the younger generation. This can be witnessed every workday during rush hours as those working on the island rushes to and fro the mainland. One of the biggest bottleneck is the link to Butterworth area, even after you pass the Penang bridge you still gets stuck there. Therefore, additional links to the mainland is but crucial to the continued growth of Penang, I know, everybody wants to be conservative and maintain status quo, but… Read more »

Penang girl

people who are not living in Penang and who come as tourists will not understand the whole situation here. Penangites live here everyday. What is the so called open tender when suddenly this is already in the final stage ?


Whatever party we vote in – sama sama except for degree of corruption!! Why does Penang need so many links to it (already the Penang Bridge & second bridge and ferry) -no need to bring more cars in via underground tunnel and that part of the island is not really safe – it is sinking! As it is the island’s traffic is so congested, going around in circles and jams. Better the Penang Government improve public transport by means of MRT/LRT (under Fed gov) or whatever trams/shuttles/buses to transport people to the Heritage Centre and reduce the traffic flow and… Read more »


Quote “the state government plans to spend RM27bn in the coming years, according to Penang transport master plan estimates. Out of this, RM17bn will be for highways and only RM10bn for public transport.” From the above, I understand that 17bn will be for highways. This project only involves 6.3bn, so what is the fuss about this tender award from the Penang Forum NGO? Since the Fed Govt is not very cooperative over the public transport, other things which are under the state’s jurisdiction need to be implemented. If this is done according to a master plan which has been made… Read more »


well, I hope the 3rd link will be stretched into the main land and not stop at the verge of main land so that they can have multiple exits. Also, the toll collection shall be distance sensing type to get rid of queues.

Penang girl

Learn from Japan and Taiwan


Say “No” to “Look East Policy”of Dr. Mahathir.That policy has brought terrible repercussions for Malaysia. Look no further.Learn from own backyard first,eg;Singapore and Thailand,check what are the lessons learned from their experience in providing an efficient and viable transportation plan,see what are the pro and cons of implementing a similar plan in Penang,take the best option and do a few modifications to suit Penang land density and terrain.

kampong lad

perompak di tangan kanan ku, pakatan, penyamun di tangan kiri ku, bn, aku dah tahu itu lah saja pilihan ku!!

Nk Khoo

Vote BN in state and Vote PR in parliament.

This is a check and balance to counter two evils.


As a Penangite I would prefer a more thorough look at the project. There are pros and cons to it and I think that both sides can come to a middle ground understanding. True that the federal government controls public transportation, but I feel that a better solution might be available like barring cars with single occupants only into certain zones in the city, encouraging car pooling, charging more for non penang registered cars coming into the island, etc. With general elections round the corner, its a tough decision knowing that by voting for DAP to stay in power in… Read more »

Zainul Adnan Amil

Who says the monorail project will not be approved by Unesco, it’s just here say. Singapore for example has got a lot of their heritage buildings along Joo Chiat and Arab street areas and they still have many many more heritaage buildings. How come they have MRT instead. So please don’t bring Unesco into this project in which we Penangites have long waited for the MRT or Monorail.

Nk Khoo

Another big head politician, this time is from DAP

My advice to Penang neutral voters is go vote BN in state level and vote PR in the parliament level to teach Lim Guan Eng a hard lesson like you people did to Koh Tsu Koon.

What you gains are

– Penang free port status.

– Monorail or tram project.

– NO undersea tunnel and NO new reclaimed land in Gurney Drive offshore.

by voting BN in the state government regardless the Federal government is under BN or PR.



NK Khoo,
Don’t be so naive. The free port status won’t be reinstated. As for the monorail its only a 40% rate of implementing depend on the economy but you can be sure it won’t be done. Reclaimed land along Gurney will definitely be on whether under PR or BN stretching outward and joining up to Straits Quay and forward. Its already in the plan

Nk Khoo

This is no naive, it’s a smart move to kick out LGE from Penang state.

Changing state government is a strategic decision to maximize benefits for Penangites and also to make anyone cannot fulfill promises be known to the world.


Terrific idea and solution for voters who are still fence sitters, unable to make up their mind.Kudos to you,NK Khoo,may PR get buried,especially at state level in Penang.


I am tired of all the nonsense about public transport. Singapore, going for the largest expansion of rail ever, over the next ten years will spend $60b on MRT but will also spend from $4b-$6b a year on road construction too. If you look at Hong Kong, the govt also similar spend vast amount on road construction even if it has one of the finest urban rail and public transport system in the world. Building a public transport does not mean no more highways and no increase in cars. All it really means is a slowdown growth in car population… Read more »


Feringgian, living in Tg Bungah, i avoid Batu Ferringghi during the weekends and sympathise with you but unfortunately LGE’s solution to the trafic problem includes a tunnel and the right to reclaim. I find the latter two objectional. With such a big project the people should be consulted in a larger scale. There should be more public debate on the matter. Otherwise we risk similar abuse than we experienced by the previous government. We voted for change, not more of the same thing! I just dont see the logic in rushing the award of the tender now. Badawi learnt his… Read more »


“Jelutong Development Sdn Bhd (JDSB) is a subsidiary of IJM Corporation Bhd (IJM). JDSB, formerly known as Fleetwood Development Sdn Bhd, was incorporated in 1990.

In 1997, JDSB was awarded the privatized construction of the Jelutong Expressway by the Penang State Government. As part of the privatization agreement for the construction of the Jelutong Expressway, JDSB was granted the right to reclaim 325 acres of land for development.”

In return for the Penang Road Agenda, Zenith is given the right to reclaim only 110 acres!

You figure out the economics of it all.

Batu Ferringhian

Anil, thank you and those in Penang Forum for the very much needed update. As a Penangite..I trully believe that there are better solutions. An undersea tunnel just doesn’t make sense. I’m speaking of long term solutions… The state government could definately upgrade the ferry services. I’m almost positive this can be done! We could use the Tanjung City Marina for this.. The only thing I agree is that Teluk Bahang – Batu Ferringhi needs better roads. For decades we rely on this rather dangerous windy road. During peak seasons..this road is just massively jammed with traffic. A 5 min… Read more »


LGE, Why the rush? With the 13th GE just around the corner why cant you just wait? Aren’t you confident of winning Putrajaya? Then you can sort out the public transportation mess that Pg is facing. As a Penangite i’m prepared to wait a few more mths. Announcing this tunnel project isnt going to win you any votes…..you may lose some….even mine. If you force me to choose, I rather have BN’s monorail than your tunnel! For Pakatan’s own sake pls dont gamble in pg…..Cancel the tunnel project now! Concentrate in winning the elections. RM8 billion can be used on… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

This is the price Penang Forum need to pay for trying desperately to foster a cozy relationship with the cocky arrogant tokong. Penang Forum failure to be critical with the tokong when the tokong was under tremendous pressure has boosted the ego of the tokong to new height. Shame on Penang Forum for it’s lousy damage control that has backfired now.