Pennag Forum meets new CM Chow, calls for review of RM46bn transport mega project

Penang Forum meeting with new Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow on 6 June 2018 - Photograph: Chow Kon Yeow's Facebook

Penang Forum met up with new Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow at his office in Komtar yesterday evening. Among the issues raised:

  • review the Penang Structure Plan and draft Local Plan, especially to protect hill slopes and ensure more consistent town planning.
  • focus on flood prevention instead of just flood mitigation: tackle the multiple causes of flooding at source – including hill-slope clearing and surface runoff.
  • conduct an independent review of the Halcrow Penang transport masterplan and the SRS Consortium RM46bn mega project, and the need for massive land reclamation now that federal sources of funding are available.

Other points highlighted were:

  • the evictions of the Rifle Range tenants and the inadequate housing for the B40 while in contrast, the property overhang (mostly condos priced at over RM500,000) has doubled in just one year (2017) and
  • the ongoing problems at Sia Boey.

This is the media statement that Penang Forum released today:

Daim Zainuddin, the chairman of the Council of Eminent Persons, announced on 18 May that the council would review all mega projects to determine “if they are to our advantage”.

While Daim is presumed to be referring to projects involving foreign interests, Penang Forum would like to ask that this call be extended to cover all mega projects regardless whether the parties involved are foreign or domestic. Indeed, the pertinent question here is whether the mega project will not only benefit the people but will also protect the environment for future generations.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow recently announced that the state government would prioritise and hasten the implementation of the Penang transport masterplan, which is a mega project estimated to cost RM46bn.

We call on the PH state government to review this mega project because the Pakatan Harapan’s Manifesto Promise no. 39 ‘Balancing economic growth with environmental protection’ has a commitment to improve public transport.

Given the scale of the funding for this mega project the state must ensure government procurement produces the best value for taxpayers’ money (Promise #23). The awarding process used was based on a Request for Proposal, rather than a true open tender, which did not allow for any meaningful comparison of bid documents as the scope of work was not fixed. Hence the award process must also be reviewed and revisited.

Furthermore the present transport masterplan was based on the assumption that buses, ferries and a cross-channel bridge were under federal control and there was nothing the state could do about it. So it did not focus on how these could be improved or expanded. But now that circumstances have changed, the plan needs to be revised.

In view of Malaysia’s commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement which are in force, and Pakatan Harapan’s commitment to sustainable public transport, Penang’s transport policy should be radically shifting from building more highways (to accommodate more cars) to putting in place a first-rate comprehensive network of public transport.

Planning for equitable public transport should take into consideration the following criteria:


  • Fiscal prudence that should consider cost-effectiveness in construction, operation and maintenance. Detailed financial analysis of different public transport systems must be done and compared. The most cost-effective system should be selected.
  • Other important considerations are efficiency of operation, predictable schedules, and systems compatibility
  • The different components of the transport system must be well connected and integrated, socially inclusive, with a low impact on the built and natural environment.
  • Extensive public consultation at every stage – with plans available for online viewing and download so that more people can view and comment – must be carried out. The exercise must be open to scrutiny.
  • Independent consultants who are at the forefront of designing equitable, sustainable transport must be engaged to do the review of the plans. They must not be associated with or employed by parties involved in tendering for the project.

The 2016 transport proposal is a mega project put forward by SRS Consortium to the Penang state government. The design and planning fails to meet most of the above criteria. The overpriced package includes many components of mega-road building that will discourage people from using public transport and undermine the stated goal of increasing public modal share of transport. Although public consultations have been held about impacts in specific localities, open scrutiny of the whole design was strongly discouraged.

The original Penang transport masterplan by Halcrow involved public consultation, but the state pressured the consultants to add the undersea tunnel and three highways costing a total of RM6.3bn just before it adopted the plan in 2013.

The SRS proposal costing RM46n includes a proposal to reclaim 4,500 acres of land (comprising three islands). It departs drastically from the officially adopted 2013 Halcrow masterplan. Thus, a thorough, proper and independent review should be carried out to ascertain its suitability, viability and sustainability.

The massive proposed reclamation will destroy fishing grounds and jeopardise fishing livelihoods and a vital local source of seafood. It will be environmentally unsustainable due to expensive maintenance costs (required for dredging) in the future. Promise 10 of the PH Manifesto talks of ensuring food security and protecting the welfare of farmers and fishermen.

Last but not the least, with rapid changes in public transport technology and new trends in info-mobility, it is imperative that any existing plan for public transport should be re-examined. A new public transport design has to be integrated to encourage, walking, cycling, and bus use.

In view of all the above considerations, Penang Forum calls on the PH government, which promises accountability, transparency and openness, to exercise fiscal prudence and to review the present RM46bn SRS transport proposal in line with PH’s promise to review all mega projects that may not be advantageous to the people.

Penang Forum
7 June 2018

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12 Jun 2018 3.42pm

Penang Forum folks please lead by example by taking bus and not driving car.

Ma jiji
Ma jiji
7 Jun 2018 2.39pm

It’s better directly tell the new CM, your hot seat now is being given, not earned. Obviously, People’s power can always dictate what you are, beware !

7 Jun 2018 9.15pm
Reply to  Ma jiji

Good to be in penang forum or keyboard worriors. No responsibilities. Not only ine stake holder but many with opposing demands. Relocate the airport and the land can do whatever pg lang wants. Airport is like former kai tak aiport. Just look at pg island map. Occupies more than 15% of the island, nosy and bring more people and pollute the island.

Tan Dau Chin
7 Jun 2018 1.40pm

Dear CM Chow, I suspect if they truly interested in Penang’s well being or their own? By d looks of d facial expression of one d attendees, he seems not interested in what d CM has to say! Guess what was on his mind at that moment and what thoughts can result in such a facial expression?

7 Jun 2018 3.21pm
Reply to  Tan Dau Chin

You must be a die-hard DAP supporter !
Do you think absolutely this new CM’s capability is totally no question ?
See how indifferent he reacted to the poor people’s eviction in Riffle Range flat ?

Let’s see what else can he do ??

7 Jun 2018 7.50pm
Reply to  quan

What you? Poor has right not to pay? if you are landlord, poor no need to pay? Even in welfare society in the west, the poor living in housing commission has to pay rent. The dole received is deducted to pay his rent. Even if any debts ie once he is well do but become poor, he has to pay his taxes. Otherwise all the poor can give excuses.So try telling revenue dept not to collect his tax because he. Is poor now? The poor is not only state gomen ‘s care. How much state gets from central gomen? It… Read more »

BB resident
BB resident
14 Jun 2018 1.39pm

Penang Forum should suggest ways to preserve heritage hawker food, following the retirement of Uncle Tan of Siam Road char kway teow.

17 Jun 2018 2.57pm

CM Chow must stay strong and not bend to unnecessary pressures.

Pejo Ung
14 Jun 2018 8.31am

They are selfish people who are not interested in progress. They are retirees who want Penang of 30 years ago, slow pace and less traffic. Perhaps they should consider relocating to Taiping?

Mah HS
Mah HS
11 Jun 2018 2.06pm

BN cybertroopers lost their rice bowls.

10 Jun 2018 9.01am

A meeting so different from us Asian:
Trump at G7: Who’s who in Merkel’s photo?

Here’s my meme + caption for this archival moment of playing hardball:
Angela Merkel, German chancellor: “Now listen here, naughty cowboy. Either you are with us or against ALL of us!”

8 Jun 2018 7.53am

Once voted by the people, don’t conveniently forget the people. People who voted Pakatan Harapan include the haves & have-nots. So, don’t forget this. I heard that those evicted have not paid up their rentals. Find the reasons why. Pls don’t simply evict them as they are not stray animals. Treat them with dignity even as they don’t have money. Let them have some harapan (hope). PSM, you are doing a good social job even though you are not voted in. Note: the future political paradigm shift (in 10 years time) may skew towards socially caring parties like PSM. Eg.… Read more »

8 Jun 2018 7.49pm
Reply to  tunglang

Ah pek, caring needs $££€¥. Photocopy or print more? In past, focus was given to ibe group. Even the very rich gets scholarship or discount. Why dont shout at that time? Why takes 2 election for the change? It takes time to rebalance. Best is to pay more income tax….

8 Jun 2018 10.57pm
Reply to  tunglang

Pg lang is so demanding. Wants gomen to built bus shelters and libraries and equiped with computers and yet want give free housing? Just free loafers. Pg gomen does nof collect personal income tax and how much tax does rakyat paid? About 10% as compare to 30 to 50 % in western socities. Unemployed gets dole and retirees get pension and sick can see a GP free? . Every suburb has a library and use of computer. How about paying more taxes?

Tan Wee Theng
Tan Wee Theng
8 Jun 2018 12.54am

Let me be a devil’s advocate.
Penang Forum is advocating the state government MUST
1. review, review review
2. not cut hills
3. not reclaim the shores
4. prevent flood
5. find land to build low cost housing
6. find low cost housing to take care of foreigners
7. and review, review review
Penang Forum should also propose solutions to achieve the above.

8 Jun 2018 11.01pm
Reply to  Anil Netto

Name where with plently of land. Pg must be a continental island. Seberang has plently of land. Pg forum is trying to create the havs and have not. Have lives in pg and middle or rich class. Have not in seberang, factory worker.

Ah Hua
Ah Hua
7 Jun 2018 7.33pm

It doesn’t look as if this new CM is going to give up easily on issues, hopefully he is not arrogant as you perceived him to be.