Is the RM46bn SRS transport proposal a multidimensional fallacy?


Alert: From what I understand, the environmental impact assessment, marine traffic risk assessment, social impact assessment, traffic impact assessment and fisheries impact assessment for the southern Penang Island reclamation plan has still not been approved.

The following is another brilliant article by Roger Teoh, a PhD postgraduate studying at the Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London. Worth reading carefully to find out why so many people are opposing the SRS proposal, which was put forward by a contractor and two developers.

This latest article on the Penang transport masterplan and the SRS proposal is in response to the Penang state representative and former MBSP Councillor Joshua Woo’s letter to the editor “Sustainable public mobility is multidimensional”.

In this article, the two statements highlighted in italics are extracts from a representative of the Penang state government and SRS Consortium. These statements will be critically analysed using both quantitative and qualitative evidence, and I will leave it to the judgement of Penangites to come up with their own informed opinion on the topic.

Penangites deserve the right to be accurately informed with the true blueprint and consequences of the SRS proposal.

“Not a single country in the world has stopped using roads or stopped constructing new ones as part of its strategy to increase public mobility. Zurich, Singapore and Stockholm are the top sustainable cities in the world. They have traffic jams too, like Penang. To solve the traffic problems, these three cities develop better public transport and build new roads simultaneously. In the case of Penang, the multidimensional and multimodal approach has been adopted.”

The table below shows a comparison of some key transport statistics for the three cities of Zurich, Singapore and Stockholm versus Penang island. Data for Zurich, Singapore and Stockholm was obtained from the UITP Mobilities in Cities Database (2012), while data for Penang was obtained from various sources (Halcrow Report, DEIA and my own calculations).

On every metric, the transport statistics from Zurich, Singapore and Stockholm clearly disprove SRS Consortium’s argument that these cities are “placing an equal emphasis on public transport and the road network”. Unlike Penang which records one of the highest car modal share in the world (96.8%), the car modal shares for Zurich, Singapore and Stockholm are all below 50%.

So how do these cities manage to achieve such a low car modal share while Penang has remained stuck on car dependency for so many decades?

According to these transport metrics, it is apparent that these cities placed more emphasis on public transport instead of focusing heavily on cars. For example, Zurich has almost 8.5 times more public transport routes with a dedicated right-of-way (440.9 metres per 1000 persons) relative to its highway supply (52.0 metres per 1000 persons).

It is worth noting that Stockholm has the highest highway supply in this list (139 metres per 1,000 persons) because its urban layout and the population is scattered over a large area of multiple fjords. Despite Stockholm having the highest highway supply in the list, it still has 42.4% more dedicated public transport routes relative to highways.

Similarly, Singapore’s dedicated public transport route (33.4 metres per 1000 persons) is also 11% higher when compared with its highway supply (30 metres per 1000 persons).

Conversely, Penang island’s public transport infrastructure is virtually non-existent at the present day where it does not have any form of public transport with a dedicated-right of way (0 metres per 1,000 persons).

Due to the lack of adequate public transport, Penangites are forced to depend heavily on the car, as reflected in the “vehicle to population ratio”, where Penang has more vehicles than the state’s population.

Despite Penang trailing far behind in public transport infrastructure, the RM46bn SRS transport proposal continues to place heavy emphasis on vehicular traffic. For example, phase one of its proposal aims to construct only one LRT line from George Town to Bayan Lepas costing RM8bn, but significantly more roads and highways (PIL 1, PIL 2/2A, North Coast Paired Road, and the Penang undersea tunnel) projected to cost at least RM15bn.

Yes, the SRS Consortium correctly pointed out that cities around the world have not stopped widening or constructing some new roads. But these road improvement projects are often done at much smaller scales and are not meant to provide substantial new vehicle capacity.

Instead, the construction of some new roads aims to fulfil other objectives of the road network, such as allowing road space to be reallocated towards more sustainable transport modes and to support street-related activities and provide a high-quality public realm.

This is unlike the six-lane PIL 1 mega project that focuses solely on providing a substantial increase in road capacity.

It is worth noting that the SRS transport proposal (formulated by property developers) significantly deviates from the original Penang transport masterplan (formulated by Halcrow, a world-renowned independent transport consultant).

The Halcrow report placed more focus on improving public transport (seven proposed tram routes and three BRT routes) while only proposing to construct some new roads by 2030 at a much lower cost.

Essentially, the main difference lies in the magnitude and scale of road building.

Penang’s addiction to more roads

As a result of the heavy emphasis on vehicular traffic in the SRS proposal, the transport statistics also show that the highway supply in Penang will still increase at a faster rate (+35.1 metres per 1,000 persons) than dedicated public transport routes (+25.88 metres per 1,000 persons) after the SRS proposal is implemented.

Therefore, this quantitative and qualitative evidence clearly show that the SRS proposal is not “sustainable and multidimensional” as claimed by its proponents.

Fundamentally, Penang urgently needs to catch up with its significant public transport deficit to reduce car dependence before it should even consider building any more roads.

“At the time of writing, Singapore is currently building its eleventh expressway, the 21.5km North-South Corridor with an estimated cost of RM23bn (S$8bn).”

The SRS Consortium has frequently used Singapore’s continued road building to justify the case for even more highways to be constructed in Penang. But such arguments are highly misleading as highlighted in my previous article that raised a number of critical questions on the SRS proposal that remained unanswered by the Penang government since 2016.

Most importantly, SRS Consortium simply failed to acknowledge that Singapore is constructing significantly more MRT lines (Thomson-East Coast MRT Line, Jurong Region Line, and the Cross-Island Line) than roads. This is in addition to the fact that Singapore already has five existing MRT lines with a car modal share of only 33.2%, compared to Penang with no form of public transport with a dedicated right-of-way and a car modal share of 96.8%.

To make matters worse, the representative of the Penang government only stated the absolute cost spent by Singapore to improve the road network, without providing a relative comparison with the money spent on improving mass transit. Although it is true that Singapore’s eleventh expressway (North-South Corridor) costs as much as S$8bn, such amounts pale by comparison to the money spent on constructing the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line (S$24bn), and the Cross-Island MRT Line (S$41bn).

It is also worth highlighting that Singapore’s new 21.5km North-South “Expressway” that was heavily cited by representatives of the Penang government had since been redesigned as a North-South “Corridor”. There is a clear distinction between an “expressway” and a “corridor” that was not adequately addressed by proponents of the PIL1. Unlike the PIL1 expressway that focuses primarily on moving vehicular traffic, the North-South Corridor will be Singapore’s first integrated transport corridor featuring continuous bus lanes, walking and cycling trunk routes.

The differences between Penang’s upcoming PIL1 expressway and Singapore’s North-South Corridor are shown in the artist impressions below.

Where are the bus and cycle lanes?

While the Penang government frequently chides NGO concerns as “spreading fake news”, such an excuse can no longer be used for the artist impression for the PIL1 expressway as it was obtained directly from Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s official Facebook page.

According to a former Penang state assembly member, although SRS Consortium continuously claims that the PIL1 expressway is expected to have dedicated bus lanes, this was not shown in the artist impression of PIL1, nor is it officially recorded in the detailed SRS request for proposal documents. The unavailability of the SRS proposal online for public scrutiny certainty creates a breeding ground for misinformation and confusion among Penangites.

If SRS Consortium claims that its transport proposal is superior and more complete than the original Halcrow transport masterplan, why is the Penang state government so afraid to upload the detailed SRS proposal online for public scrutiny? And why is the Penang government constantly defending the SRS proposal instead of critically questioning them on the various deficiencies identified by NGOs?

Until today, the Penang government and SRS Consortium have both remained completely silent on two serious concerns that are found in the detailed SRS proposal:

  • A highly unrealistic ridership forecast for the Penang LRT that is significantly higher than most MRT lines in London, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur on a per capita basis; and
  • Dubious population density projections for the three SRS reclaimed islands (21,636 people per square km) that are higher than the city centres of London (11,522 people per square km) and Paris (20,909 people per square km).

The people of Malaysia had placed high hopes on the Pakatan Harapan government by voting overwhelmingly for change in the last general election. But what we are witnessing now is a continuation of malpractices that are no different than the previous BN administration.

It is time for the Penang government to walk the talk and live up to its principles of Competency, Accountability and Transparency (CAT).

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Raj 777

more talking about massive $ Penang transport Plan.

we locals can enjoy penang food while talking over it, digest mee goreng also digest the points put forward by Anil

Somehow easier to enjoy Mee Bangkok Lane than the traffic jam. what say you ?
Mamak there can tell you the Pulau Tikus jam is hurting his goreng business.


The Rm7.00 plate of heavenly (no more) Mee Goreng as seen in this video was served with a smaller serving (for the Hobbits?)! Less 30% than what I got full plate in 2011 @ Rm4.50. This is so outrageous! To me, this outrageously smaller serving is only worth Rm4.00 today. Has worldly fame gotten into you to behave so outrageously at the expense of your diehard loyal Penangites? I would rather eat Char Koay Teow with duck eggs fill to the edge of plate the same price of Rm7 or even less. Hello, Ah Ko (Brother) Mamak Ori-Maestro, your ridiculously… Read more »


Hawker culture will be nominated by Singapore for a possible listing on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Sunday (Aug 19) in his National Day Rally speech.


SingLand Kia-Su wants everything street hawker food to claim as theirs. By doing so kia-su, others in Malaysia, esp. Penang cannot lay claim to the heavenly street hawker food some of which origins go way back to more than 100 years when SingLand was jump a rowdy port with Putu Mayom sellers.


I believe the ongoing process of gentrification of George Town has also ‘affected’ this gentrified kopitiam where the famed Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng is located. This inevitably ‘affected’ the stall space rental of this Mee Goreng which also ‘affected’ the food price.
Mamak Mee Goreng Ori-Maestro. You now join the same infamous rank as that Red Beret Char Koay Teow Ori-Maestro in Lorong Selamat for Outrageously Priced Street [email protected] Serving.

Heng GS

This hokkien speaking manual may be chasing his Penang Dream of lifestyle condo so 8ncrease his profit margin accordingly at expense of loyal supporters whose threshold level of affordability is RM5 a plate even with gravy sotong ”liao”.

Tunglang and Shriek and Anil should opt for Mee Goreng at Bayan Baru market food court, reasonably raised to RM5 a plate, and taste better. The trademark banner there calls it Ho Liao although operated by Malay. Let’s leave Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng for tourists.


Penang hawker food got too much hype from media in recent years, some really do not deserve the accolades, but they took the advantage to hike up food price with smaller offerings – tourists generally do not mind small portion since they sample several dishes at one meal, but the locals suffer instead. tunglang can start a blog compiling a list of such unscrupulous hawkers. Trust him more than CNN or Lonely Planet. Incudentally, Spore PM Lee Hsien Loong said last night that the hawker centres in Singapore will still provide S$3 meals for lower income residents (S$3 with respect… Read more »


M-sized Hokkien Mee @ Rm3.50 in Penang. There is one Hokkien Mee stall ‘hidden’ (inconspicuous in a side lane) except to some die-hard locals. Sandwiched between Jelutong POS office & 7 Eleven in Jalan Jelutong, the lorong kopitiam where this stall is operating (only in the morning) is a humble & not gentrified breakfast waterhole. Ask for a spoonful of garlic generously tossed to the Hokkien Mee & you are assured of a heavenly breakfast of Hokkien Mee reminiscent of the early 70s flavour of Penang street hawker cuisine. The prawn soup will make your taste buds dancing in delight… Read more »


Yes, create a blacklist to warn consumers!


Actually those shoestring budget travelers on backpacks to Penang only spend money on hawker food, driving up hawker price to the anguish of poor income Penangites.

Penang must attract high rollers tourists so as not to affect livelihood of poor folks.


How about the George Town Food Festival 2018 currently being held at the 7th floor car park area of 1st Avenue Mall?

Reasonable price or is it targeting tourists?

Heng GS

For RM7, better value to go for Tiger char kway grow with duck egg at Carnavoun Street. RM6 with chicken egg.

Sorry Bangkok Lane Mamak, u r alienating the locals and your maestro title should be removed from now unless you can be bestowed by your foreigners supporters. That boy in video looks like down under Aussie who get duped !


I hope Datuk Mustapha Chan could expand his Mohd Chan halal Chinese food restaurants ( to Penang to give competition to (those) who have been selling nasi kandar at unfair high price.


New Zealand politician cycles to hospital to give birth
Cheers! Julie Genter.
Welcome your newborn baby to in the land of the Hobbits!


Not possible on Malaysian roads, where most motorists and motorcyclists have no respect for cyclists and pedestrians.


Hello, Norman. Ho Hia Tee (Phor Tor Hungry Ghost Brother) expecting only good news in!


The realm of hungry ghosts shares the planetary foundation of the human realm but they exist in a dimension or molecular basis so metaphysically different from ours that it is impossible for our five senses to perceive them.

If we cannot perceive them, does it mean there are no such things as ghosts?

All the time, there are hundreds of radio frequencies, microwave signals and light wavelengths passing around and through us with tetrabytes of data packets heading for myriad devices.

And our five senses cannot perceive them at all. But they are there.

Darren Quek

The Melaka government is studying plan to implement a ‘Car-free Day’ in certain congested zones at least once a month, in order to reduce the number of vehicles on the road at peak hours.

Melaka Chief Minister Adly Zahari said the initiative was aimed at reducing traffic congestion and encouraging more people to walk, cycle or choose public transport as an alternative, thereby reducing the rate of carbon monoxide emissions in the state.

Penang can do so at its heritage zone too.


Malacca does not have a transport master plan. Transport plan is to buy pass. It by pass


What about the Melaka Monorail Plan?
Is it still a 1KM joyride for tourists?


S’poreans and M’sians at odds over hawker food PETALING JAYA: Malaysian chefs are “frying” Singapore’s bid to nominate its hawker culture for Unesco’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. While every country has its own unique street food identity, the move by Singapore suggested a lack of confidence and “arrogant behaviour” from the city state, said celebrity chef Datuk Redzuawan Ismail, better known as Chef Wan. “People who lack confidence in their food will go all out to do these things for recognition,” he said. “It’s not necessary to announce to the world that you have… Read more »


In sing land, all hawkers have relocated to food courts for health and cleaniless reasons. So there is no hawkering on streets but become standstill operating as stalls. Hawker centres sound only poor workers eat. They changed from from hawker centre to food court8


Hawkers Centres around Singapore HDB estates are regulated by the Singapore government with affordable rental so that they could provide affordable menu to low income heartlanders. Of course richer ones can pay higher premium at air-cond food courts.


Chef Wan’s restaurant venture failed in Singapore.


Malaysia hawkers must improve on hygiene factor and cleanliness before approaching UNESCO for recognition. Singapore is ahead in this area and will set a high benchmark!


Pic ask. Where are the cycle lanes? First, singland is more densely populated and flat. Here which pg kang wants to cycle up hill where the highway is in the interior with the mountain range. Secondly where are the bicycle shops in pg. Even in town area, hardly any bicycles and bicycle shops. Town area where are the cyclists.


Shriek: Secondly where are the bicycle shops in pg. Even in town area, hardly any bicycles and bicycle shops. Town area where are the cyclists. My 2-Wheel Kha-Tah-Chhia Revelation: Cycling is now a hot yuppie trend in Penang, so much so one can see many cyclists from the hardcore to the casual to the exploring tourists. Since the 70s, the old neighbourhood bicycle shops had slowly died off but some remained steadfast to reinvent their businesses like that Chin Aik bicycle shop (in Carnarvon Street) which once was a popular venue for mostly Malay racing cyclists to buy Raleigh &… Read more »


Ah pek and pg forum, no thank you to tokong? See how many cars and bicycle in the coming forum.
I johnny walk or free go but cannot see daisy daisy on bicycles


Watch the PM Singapore 2018 National Day Rally speech held last night on public housing and health care for elderly:


Grab was founded by 2 Malaysians.
Grab even took over Uber in Malaysia and Singapore.

However, Grab later became a Singapore company along the way. Why? Because funded by Temasek and not Khazanah?


Mahathir in China said Malaysians are consumers not producers like China people. He forgot talented Malaysian Chinese like the Grab duo and that pen drive inventor got no chance in Bolehland so migrated overseas with their business ideas.

Ironically Jack Ma said his Ali Baba ventured was inspired by our MSC. A slap for Mara?


Mahathir still want to produce cars, he should consider upcoming technological products. But maybe he knew Malaysians lack creativity due to our poor education system, including the low ranking local universities. Wonder why LimKokWing never step forward to redeem


1+2 MCA is now adopting ‘Semak & Imbang’ strategy.

MCA could be rebranded as ‘MCAB’ – Malaysia Check And Balance’ party?


MCA more like Sesat dan Bimbang…


MCA is right to say that LGE is just a Book Keeping Minister. Daim (ikut perintah Tun M?) has successfuly transferred all functions of the Finance Ministry in relation to the GLCs to Azmin’s Ministry, and now assigning the Finance Ministry with just tax collection and enforcement?

Tan Wee Theng

About opting for tram instead of LRT, SRS’s argues that tram needs more earthwork to shift underground utilities and telecommunication infrastructures, beside more prone to vehicle accidents. I have not read any countering against this claim of SRS.

Tan Wee Theng

How long will the review need to be? Average penangites yearn infrastructure investments as they dont come easy in Penang. Most may be weary of long review in a window of opportunity which could disappear five years from now. From whatever piecemeal presented by the secretive SRS so far, which part of it is considered workable by Penang Forum? We should support part of it and get it on the ground running while sorting out the rest. At least Penangites get some infra investment that we so badly need. Calling a halt of the whole thing seems smack of ulterior… Read more »

Utusan Yang Mulia

Transport apa, saya duduk je ni tak kemana2 sebab nak cut kos utk rakyat


RTM syndrome: Rehat Tunggu Mati.