Penang transport masterplan: A scandal in the making?


This is another piece by Roger Teoh that is worth reading. He expresses more or less the same concerns that Penang Forum has been articulating, but this time from a rigorous academic background in transport studies.

So why are the project delivery partner and the Penang state government pushing for this kind of regressive transport infrastructure proposals?

Roger’s piece:

It has been almost a month since I last wrote a piece Debunking the Penang government’s transport master plan spin highlighting significant concerns on the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) but I have received no response from the Penang state government.

Nevertheless, this latest article will point out serious concerns regarding the modelling methods, ridership forecasts and the decision-making process adopted in the PTMP, subsequently comparing it with best practices adopted in developed countries.

However, this article inevitably raises more questions than it answers, and issues which the Penang state government has to provide clear answers and clarifications.

Questionable PTMP modelling methods and results

Based on the limited information available on public domain, it appears that the “Four Stage Travel Demand Model” is employed by SRS Consortium (PTMP Project Delivery Partner) to estimate long-term ridership forecasts for the overall transport master plan.

While it is understandable that most people will not understand how the model works in detail, in a nutshell, the “Four Stage Travel Demand Model” is an outdated approach first implemented in Detroit and Chicago during the late 1950s.

Although one might argue that this model is still being widely used in transport modelling in the present day, its results are only applicable for short-term forecasts. For example, this model is still used by Transport for London (TfL) today, but only to estimate the severity of network disruptions for accidents and short-term road closures.

In other words, ridership forecast results produced for the PTMP are highly questionable as the “Four Stage Travel Demand Model” is not suitable for long-term ridership projections. Instead, a more accurate approach for long term forecasting 20 to 30 years into the future is to adopt a combination of land use and transport models.

To make matters worse, there are even serious allegations on the population forecasts produced for the PTMP, which the state must provide clarifications. For example, 300,000 people are projected to live in the three proposed “SRS islands” to be reclaimed. The location of these three islands to be reclaimed is shown in yellow on figure 1 at the top.

Putting it into context, this implies that the population density for these islands has to be around 17,000 people per square km, which is almost equivalent to Hong Kong! For a comparison, the population density of Penang Island today is only around 2600 people per square km (excluding undeveloped areas).

How realistic will it be for 300,000 people to be living in these reclaimed islands in a few decades when it took 200 years for Penang Island’s population to reach the present 800,000 people? Why is the Penang state government not questioning these results?

We often question the intelligence of BN politicians for accepting and rubber-stamping every policy with blindingly obvious flaws. At the moment, is the opposition any different when compared to them?

Based on these allegations, I would strongly urge the Penang state government to fully disclose the PTMP’s modelling methods and feasibility studies in order for it to be thoroughly scrutinised by the public. After all, there will be nothing to hide if these ridership projections are conducted in a proper manner.

Best practices in the developed world

Looking at best practices adopted in the developed world, independent transport modellers are often employed to conduct feasibility studies, transport appraisals and ridership forecasts, where the final report and results produced will subsequently be audited.

The accuracy of these appraisals and ridership forecasts is highly important as it enables city planners to determine the most appropriate public transport system, as well as calculating its financial health and future cash flows needed to maintain these infrastructures. In developed countries, the threat of litigation is possible against traffic forecasters who overestimate transport demand.

Referring back to the PTMP, why is SRS Consortium allowed to carry out their own feasibility studies and traffic ridership forecasts for the Penang state government with a potential conflict of interest arising?

In addition, there will be no excuses on why feasibility studies cannot be uploaded on a public domain as these procedures are often conducted in developed countries. An example of this can be illustrated in London where additional airport runway capacity is required, but only one runway can be built either on Heathrow or Gatwick airport. In order to resolve this tight debate and select the preferred airport, the full feasibility report (download here) conducted by an independent commissioner is uploaded on public domain for scrutiny and transparency purposes in decision-making.

Hence, the Penang state government should also follow the footsteps of increased transparency in developed countries by publishing all PTMP feasibility studies and ridership forecasts, as it always claims to be Competent, Accountable and Transparent.

Why the refusal to work together with NGOs?

Based on observations as a bystander in the past few months, representatives from the Penang state government have been unfairly discrediting the alternative PTMP solutions proposed by NGOs such as Penang Forum without providing any clear quantitative evidence.

These unnecessary spinning and personal attacks by the Penang state government, particularly towards MBPP Councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui is extremely worrying as it shows the top leadership’s lack of interest and incompetence in responding to constructive criticisms.

Although I personally do not fully agree with the alternative PTMP proposed by Penang Forum, there are some positive points which does not justify the entire report to be rejected outright by the Penang state government.

Instead of completely dismissing PTMP critiques, is the Penang state government able to present quantitative evidence or feasibility reports through the use of economic appraisals to show that a series of alternative scenarios have been considered?

According to the UK Government’s Green Book on Appraisal and Evaluation, it is mandatory for an alternative proposal to be considered for every project.

In other words, every solution has to be considered transparently and thoroughly by the state through the use of cost-benefit analysis. The selection criteria and ultimate solution chosen for the PTMP must be justified for the project that gives the highest Benefit-Cost Ratio (BCR). Sadly, this very crucial step in deciding the best PTMP solution has been completely omitted by the Penang state government.

Rather than treating NGOs such as Penang Forum as an enemy of the state, why not utilise their technical knowledge in sustainability and work together for a better Penang? Is it not possible to reach a compromise and incorporate certain positive points from the alternative PTMP to improve the overall plan?

At the end of the day, Penang Forum is not a political party and it is not in the interest of an NGO to disagree on the PTMP for the sake of opposition. Not only that, it will be just a gimmick for the state government to incorporate its critics into the Penang Transport Council, but not provide any convincing answers to address their concerns raised.

Competence, accountability and transparency?

To conclude, the Penang state government has to fully address these new sets of questions raised if it is truly committed in fulfilling its CAT framework of Competence, Accountability and Transparency.

One of the most important role for governments is to spend public funds wisely and efficiently. However, the clear mismanagements highlighted in this article pose a serious breach of trust towards ordinary Penangites, who voted overwhelmingly for the DAP in the hope to see an improved practice of good governance and transparency.

It appears to the public that the high competence, accountability and transparency standards once set by the Penang state government during its first term in office is beginning to deteriorate to unsatisfactory levels.

The abuse of power and corruption by the federal government over the past 50 years is well known. However, this does not allow the opposition to be complacent and settle just to be slightly better than them.

As opposition, once a beacon of hope for a better Malaysia, we should be doing better than these mismanagements and formulate effective policies. This is almost equivalent to choosing between two rotten apples without a viable alternative.

After learning about these scandals and numerous attempts on raising this issue internally but to no prevail, I have tendered my resignation from DAP membership. I am not a “Yes Man” and the PTMP scandal without clear explanations from the Penang state government goes against my principles of joining the DAP in the first place towards building a better Malaysia.

Roger Teoh is a PhD postgraduate studying at the Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College, London.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

Related articles on the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP)

1. An Independent Review for an Optimised PTMP – Roger Teoh [25th Oct 2016]

2. Why Penang Needs More Urban Rail – Roger Teoh [1st Nov 2016]

3. Quantifying the Consequences of the PTMP – Roger Teoh [8th Nov 2016]

4. Less Focus on Cars & Roads is Better for All – Roger Teoh [14th Nov 2016]

5. Debunking the Penang State Government’s PTMP Spin – Roger Teoh [25th Nov 2016]

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David Loman

Dokumen RFP PIP dibuka kepada umum selama sebulan mulai 16 Januari 2017

Mubarak Chan

Ladies & Gentlemen, You DAP supporters of the [alleged] Singaporean Trojan Horse DAP the State Government of Pulau Pinang do not be misled by the wood from the trees. Do you know what is happening with the DAP less than a year after the demise of its Creator and Mentor Lee Kuan Yew ? The DAP has thrown away the Principles of Good Governance and Transparency by doing DEALS directly with the Private Sector. The PAP Government of Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew never dealt with the Private Sector because its owned the properties and invited contractors to bid transparently… Read more »


Why so confused?
DAP is not the same as PAP.
Just like Mubarak is not the same as Murtabak.

David Loman

Future urban mobility as envisioned in Singapore, is elaborated in this latest LTA (Land Transport Authority) video:

The Singapore Bus Story: A Transformational Journey

gk ong

Penang Forum folks should lawat sambil belajar at Singapore’s LTA, perhaps after the school holiday when Air Asia is offering cheap tickets. Can stay in JB hotel to cut cost, and appreciate the public bus journey to Singapore via the congested causeway and long queue at the CIQs at both ends.

David Loman

Komtar reborn with new wonders

“This tallest structure in Penang is a reminder of the vision of former chief minister, the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, who realised the need for both urban development and heritage conservation.”

David Loman

Kenji Ooi captured the new colourful night shots of the revitalized Komtar:

gk ong

Liow on Sunday Star today said ‘Integrated rail networks for other cities’, mentioned needs are evident in Johor Bahru. But he did not mention Penang.

Ho Say Leow
tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Anil, topic: Fisherfolk slam massive land reclamation plan at EIA public consultation
cannot leave comment?

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

DAP old birds are becoming more ARROGANT like that Niao Kong.
Treating critics as naive is their ARROGANT + INTOLERANT genetic makeup as a political trader party.
If Roger Teoh’s request for full transparency is all that naive, then DAP is treating all Penangites as naive & fools in their dance of corporate-political tango.
We are not sleeping but watching the every genetic behaviour of this bunch of DAP old birds.
You want to play the game, we will see comes GE14.
You may get [highly critical comments] from us during your ceramahs….

james k

Sad that they are resorting to personal attacks on him rather than rebutting his points. I expected better from them- these are upper ranking people in the state government/council, and they are doing this to a young scholar who is just voicing out his opinion.

Also, a simple excuse “it is a different scenario on the ground” to rebut evidence-based studies is pitiful. Please come up with better answers. Many are still not convinced about the way PTMP is to be carried out.


why simple answer as to 380 buses running at 60% capcity pg forum does not border to find out. roger expect further improvement in public transport when rapid bus see no reasons to add more buses. why state cares about public transport when federal see no hope to improve rapid buses. everyone here are car riders king of the road.


no one take buses that is why no one speaks the need to improve the public transport including roger. public bus a stigma link with ah pek, ah mah, viets, burmese, all low working class with walking legs. rapid bus federal gomen should pay or share cost with state to build busways. once only road for buses but same road for 4wd with front donkey bars then people will find public transport attractive. no need to go to imperial college to do traffic. anyway imperial is not well known for traffic studies.

Huang Lei

unlikely that the new generation will take public transportation as it is embedded in their DNA to own and drive personal cars.

gk ong

Roger Teoh should know that UK’s Top Gear TV show and magazine have strong influence in raising the desire to own and drive cars. Not sure if Roger himself a car driver or a tube rider in London.


Yes, most of them (pampered generation) are reluctant to walk to the bus stops, prefer to drive.

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Riding donkey to reason won’t come to sensible conclusions!
Pls try harder!

David Loman

LinkBike is taking commuting to a new level as Penang is witnessing the launch of the bike sharing system (BSS) this Saturday. Apart from building a 39.3 KM dedicated bicycle lane from Straits Quay to Penang International Airport, now the city will be linked with bicycle lanes and commuters have the convenience of BSS. LinkBike BSS operated by FAST RENT BIKE (PG) Sdn. Bhd. is an initiative by Penang Island City Council (MBPP) to make Penang an international city like Melbourne, Amsterdam, Tokyo and others. MBPP is working closely with the operator to set up 25 strategic locations in George… Read more »

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Bicyclists can bring foldable bikes onto MRT trains, expect more racks at stations


Can orso bring foldable into Penang tram

David Loman

Penang’s Link Bike (costing RM1.85 million) as reported on NTV7 news, official commencement date 3 Jan 2017:

RM2 for 30 mins ride:

For more info:


Very good initiative, such cycling should be promoted.

Ho Say Leow

Roger Teoh quits DAP.

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Guan Eng proposes fines of RM5k for litterbugs
Another craze for Money?
Rm500 fine is already too high, what is he trying to achieve?
Remember that Rakyat has helped his bailing, so be more human than a CAT!

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

If trying to solve Penang flood problems have incurred so much money, this 5K fine is not the way to ‘pay-back’ Komtar CAT. Better word harder to get financial funding from Putrajaya. Otherwise, CM post is not for you!!!


Here the subject is public transport but you are just like throwing rubbish in the river. Anil should have fine you like komtar for rubbishing the main caption here.


High car population is like bad cholesterol clogging the veins (road). If you do not reduce the number of cars on the road (reduce car ownership), then more road need to be built or enlarged to prevent congestion, right? So Roger Troy should address the root cause of too many cars on the road, and the number is rising each day. Roger should go Singapore to better understand the transportation issue in this region as the U.K. Model may not work here.


Show off. Pg forum thinks that he knows best especially he support tram the only public solution when public buses is being utilised at 60%.


What pro rakyat slogan and so-called peoples-centric policy of CAT are now turning into arrogance and bulls… of the power that be of the State! The state supremo only listen to the real estate magnate aka business cronies who would create whims and fancies not only for the State administration but also the mesmerized Penangites! What good practices adopted by more advanced nations are all worthless of consideration in the light of lucrative and highly profitable project adventures which will include in the profile of corporate companies to impress share holders! As sensible Penagites, we should know when and how… Read more »


why blame others when our public pstronage is 60 % of 380 buses? we want cars more than buses.what is rapid and federal who are the owners been.doing? what aboit pg forum since they know is only 6O% full. this means everyone can get a seat but why no takers. come on blame ourselves when gomen is trying to reduce the bottle necks pollution and global warming due to wastage in choked and jamme d road. we should commened gomen to reducr pollution and gloabal wsrming through refucing jams

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Niao Kong only cares for ‘its’ political portfolio skewed towards brick+mortar+tarred road+tunnel developments in Penang.
Otherwise, ‘it’ has nothing sensible (for the public) to showcase as a much-lauded exemplary state of development for the rich + famous.
Also, ‘it’ is beholden (to the point of helplessness) to those with “Got Money, Can Talk” i.e. the greedy developers, who have their own self-interest + fantasies more than the state’s socio-economic-environmental concerns. So much for those Cats with “Little Money, But Still Want To Play The Best-State Game”

james k

I’m sure the state gov has been reading articles by Roger Teoh. Let’s hope they listen to the experts and not profit minded consultants/developers.
It is however, alarming that they have not responded at all. The first article is dated 25th Oct 2016. Their silence is deafening. Let’s hope it’s because they are reviewing the master plan based on the people’s voice and will alter it accordingly to make it more efficient and sustainable.


Eventually we see a messiah like Roger Teoh to open the Die-nasty’s eyes, right?

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

if father can’t teach the son, the let the public do the job!