Penang Bridge Sdn Bhd has a 25-year concession to operate and maintain the Penang Bridge which expires on 31 May 2018. What happens next?
It is important for the bridge to be returned to the Penang government after that – or even earlier if possible – as part of an overall restructuring of transport in Penang, in line with the principle of subsidiarity (local affairs managed by local government).
PBSB now comes under UEM Group Bhd, which is wholly owned by the Finance Ministry’s Khazanah. PBSB has probably collected many times the original RM800 million cost of the bridge.
A new Penang Transport Commission should be set up. This should control the ferry services and the Penang Bridge. RapidPenang too should be taken over by the Penang state government and operate under the purview of the proposed Penang Transport Commission. The Commission should also look into the possibility of LRT and trams services.
Contrary to the calls for the Penang Bridge toll of RM7 to be abolished, the bridge tolls could be turned into a form of congestion pricing for private motor vehicles or single-occupancy vehicles entering the island. The profits from the Penang Bridge could then help to subsidise passenger ferry services and RapidPenang buses, including a shuttle bus service across the bridge. The bridge profits could also finance LRT/tram services in the state (including a cross-channel rail link), the construction of bicycle lanes and improvements in pedestrian walkways to make the streets more people-friendly.
Of course, none of this will happen as long as the BN insists on managing public transport in Penang from Putrajaya. So that is another reason why we desperately need change.