Penang Forum launches ‘Better, Cheaper, Faster’ transport masterplan


Penang Forum has launched a ‘Better Cheaper Faster’ Penang transport masterplan report and website ( today, 13 July 2016.

Penang Forum is pleased to launch our proposed ‘Better Cheaper Faster’ Penang Transport Master Plan and website.

This is an initiative by Penang’s civil society NGOss to provide a viable alternative to, as well as insightful analysis and review of, the RM40bn-plus transport masterplan prepared by SRS Consortium for the Penang state government. (SRS, which stands for South Reclamation Scheme, is a joint-venture between Gamuda Berhad, Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd and Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd.)

Lack of transparency, clarity over SRS’ proposal

We are deeply alarmed by the apparent lack of clarity and transparency regarding the financial viability and immense financial risk that come with the projects under the SRS masterplan, which comprises a mixture of LRT, monorail, tram (for George Town world heritage site only) and new road highway systems, each in different routes.

We must know in advance what kind of financial situation we are getting into before deciding on a project. A major reason for the financial failure of the Kuala Lumpur LRT and monorail projects is the poor or inaccurate information given to the government, preventing it from making the correct decisions.

The LRT system is not only more expensive to build, but costs two to three times more to operate and maintain compared to trams. We are in the dark on whether SRS’ proposal provides any detailed financial projections and options of different alternative modes of public transport – LRT, monorail, tram and BRT – to choose from. The Penang state government has the responsibility to provide the public such information before committing the state to such major liabilities.

Shortfall in KL ridership

We note that the LRT and Monorail systems in Kuala Lumpur are experiencing shortfall in ridership.

In KL both LRT companies ran into financial difficulties and could not service their debts. The federal government had to issue RM4.5bn in bonds for the debts of these two companies while the KL Monorail was provided with a RM300m soft loan. In November 2001, the ministry of finance purchased the outstanding debts of the two LRT companies totalling RM5.5bn via another bond issue.

Can state afford high deficits?

There are obvious concerns on the lack of convincing and effective contingency measures in case the projects proposed by SRS encounter financial setbacks.

Penang state’s budgeted revenue in 2016 is RM700m. Assuming the revenue doubles by 2023, a RM126m deficit on this one LRT line is about 10 per cent of the state budget. What about the financial costs of all the other LRT, monorail, tram, BRT and highways?

What if the state is unable to finance the deficit and no financial help from the federal government is forthcoming? Will the projects be stopped? Who will bail out the projects? Is the Penang state government be able to afford such high deficits? Will they impair the financial stability of the state?

Tram, BRT cheaper to build, cheaper to operate
The modern tram and bus rapid transit (BRT) based public transport systems are both cheaper to build and cheaper to operate and maintain.

Interviews with two of the largest tram manufacturers in the world confirmed average construction costs including civil works, rolling stock and signalling plus communication systems range from 18m-25m euros (RM83m-RM115m) per kilometre – far less than what it would cost for LRT and monorail under the SRS proposal.

For example, our calculations show that for the George Town-Bayan Lepas International Airport route, the construction cost per km for a tram system would come up to RM80m compared to RM220m for an LRT system. The total construction cost for the same route would be RM1.6bn for the tram and RM4.4bn for the LRT.

The carrying capacity (PPDP – passengers per hour per direction) for the tram would be between 7,000 and 20,000 riders compared to 18,500 for the LRT.

And the annual operating and maintenance cost for the tram would be RM67m, compared to RM170m for the LRT.

Accordingly, the tram would see a projected surplus of RM20.5m and the LRT would face a deficit of RM82.5m for the George Town- Bayan Lepas International Airport route if ridership is at 25m per year.

Visit our website at

Download the report, including the executive summary at

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27 Jul 2016 3.42am

Aren’t you guys planning to do exhibitions and roadshows? Not only to promote your alternative views but also to gather public feedback and fine-tune proposals? An online website has limited exposure, reaches only to selected public, and less able to generate a buzz for your proposal.

15 Jul 2016 8.27am

This is simple explanation: Pg state gomen lacks massive money. Needs (or hungry for) developers’ massive money. So, it inevitably have to kow tow very low to these greed-induced developers’ fancies in such projects. BUT the great minds in Komtar Tower of Arrogance have no brains to consider alternatives nor any interest to learn from others’ mistakes of such public transportation modules which may / will lead us to the black holes of financial disaster. We Penangites do not wish to be burdened by another financial failure after GST. Have brains? Use them instead of counting futures’ money in the… Read more »

17 Jul 2016 11.54am
Reply to  tunglang

Politics need money.
This is the hard truth.

17 Jul 2016 9.36pm
Reply to  Alain

Need money, of course BUT not over-bending backward to developers’ fancies, paham kah???
We vote not for political traders!

Super Rajni Star
Super Rajni Star
14 Jul 2016 5.14pm

Side Info :
Expo Affordable Homes at Prangin Mall on 30 & 31 July.

A home comes first, otherwise transport is meaningless when basic shelter being most critical.

14 Jul 2016 11.31am

Hi Anil, i have 3 questions. I hope you would not mind sharing your views 🙂 No 1, I read that you are recommending trams, over LRT. My question is, when both requires land acquisition and elevated constructions; what is it in the ‘trams’ that make it cheaper to the LRTs? It cannot be the weight right? When the ridership capacity is the same; the weight pun mesti lebih kurang juga kan? Question no 2, how do you plan to fit into Georgetown? Take the Penang street as an example. You are not going to sacrifice the main road right?… Read more »

14 Jul 2016 9.25pm
Reply to  Zulkhairi

i disagree. a ramp is a slope. when it is above grd it is an elevated structure. whether it is for car, tram or lrt it is still a bridge. but lrt light rail is lighter than tram. do you know some chinese students put a fridge in melbourne tram trying to bring home? your pics show how dangerous trying to cross the road to the tram stop in the middle? our good friend would have some difficulties. your pics show kapcai running parallel but what about crossing at cross junction. more accidents and someone killed who wash his hands?

gk ong
gk ong
14 Jul 2016 10.59am

According to Msiakini, the Gang of 4 that dominated Penang Forum are Shahrom Ahhmat, Aliran’s Anil Netto, Penang Heritage Trust’s Khoo Salma Nasution, and Penang Island City councillor Lim Mah Hui.

15 Jul 2016 8.19am
Reply to  gk ong

If you say this is a Gang of Four, was there any Tai Kor like that one in state gomen?
This is a collaboration, not a ‘manipulated’ type of state development.
Time for UBAH to state transport master plan.

ah pek
ah pek
14 Jul 2016 12.38am

Dont ever make life difficult with mega complexity in billions, as simplicity is the key to better quality of life.

I am still hoping for carpooling but now i figure this is near impossible with so many crimes and terror happenings these days.

15 Jul 2016 12.01pm
Reply to  ah pek

Ah pek, carpooling can hardly work la even if there is no crime. It started long time ago in kl but it just could not work, not so convenient, i think. Call taxi la, support them, they need to eat n support family also. Tq

13 Jul 2016 11.11pm

What does Alstom say about floods and how to mitigate ?

13 Jul 2016 9.11pm

due to battle tank like weigh in a tramt, is the civil works costs exclude elevated bridge and overhead pedestrian crossing? your photo show a futuristic glassed footbridge not passr mlm type. how can appke compare with durians.

james k
james k
13 Jul 2016 8.34pm

Amazing job by Penang Forum. I must admit I’m surprised and impressed by the detail and scope of this plan- should we have hired Penang Forum instead of Halcrow in the first place?? 😀

Impressive website, graphics and illustrations as well. Well done! I’m sold. You have my vote!

This is 100 times better than SRS money-making plan. Now, to convince Penang!
Let the anti-PGCC spirit in 2007 prevail over SRS PTMP in 2017!

Paul Liang
Paul Liang
13 Jul 2016 8.22pm

Everyone knows that moving people is the right direction to solove road and highway congestion. Building more highways is not the right solution. Rapid Penang is quite extensive and further effort to extend its web to cover wider areas with more strategic depot for higher connectivies are needed. Reducing traveling time and lower cost are top priority for any user and an efficient system consisting of buses and trams (or LRT) should be put into place. The State government keeping a huge reserve that runs in billions of ringgit is of no use to the rakyat. This cash should be… Read more »

14 Jul 2016 8.31am
Reply to  Paul Liang

you mean the tram makers who give the costs also can build elevated structures? must be super fantastic better than the chinese made mrt trains which singland sent back to tong shan to repair cracks. why not ask the foreign tram makers to build elevated structure? they still make profit even if they cant sell their trams

14 Jul 2016 8.40am
Reply to  Paul Liang

every report paints glossy pictures and is sn advertisement or promotion gimmicks. just look they build english tunnel with over runs. the same with raptor fighter plsnes. if they are so good the only thing is to cut costs and get real work culture. look at our national carrier. our ahpek is crying for tumpang he has to give up. easy to write but hard to do.

13 Jul 2016 1.16pm

It is not “poor or inaccurate information” as Anil politely put it. It is CORRUPTION and impunity in the form of needless privatisation, fake or absent tendering, fake projections, lies and u-turns, secrecy, cutting of corners on safety, exploitation of employees (staff and construction workers), deflection of local (residential, business and cultural) concerns, gauranteed profit or fare hikes (for supposed the supposed “free” market), cheap loans, tax holidays, and finally bailouts (giant additions to public debt).

Long live cepat kaya.

Charlie Tan
13 Jul 2016 11.32am

Politicians are only interested in MEGA projects

15 Jul 2016 10.04pm
Reply to  Charlie Tan

transport has to mega. otherwise one has to detour or back track. you can go to golok by E.W highway or you want to go to kl and then east coast road in the past? air asia everyone can fly kite

13 Jul 2016 10.40am

Excellent effort Anil!

We need to change mindsets if the goings not to be too fascinated of owning cars, and instead use public transport like buses.

Look forward to decentralization of SPAD to grant more autonomy in Penang for revival of efficient cost and environmental saving well linked bus system e.g. to reboot non-cowboy pajak mini buses or yellow buses or Hin buses.

15 Jul 2016 11.14am
Reply to  Jive

Yes, Jive, please revive with mini buses, most suitable for penang in view of its narrow roads.

By the way, please plant more trees la, make pg greener and walkable in view of our hot climate.

Pg govt, pls buckup with planting trees, looks like you have stopped on this more trees project/campaign. Tq