Scrap the Samy Vellu tunnel (again); focus on BRT, rail, app

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It is time for Penang to scrap the Samy Vellu tunnel.

Why do I call it the Samy Vellu tunnel? Because the idea for a bridge-tunnel in Penang was originally mooted by then Works Minister Samy Vellu in 2001 – yes, 17 years ago. Back then, I wrote a piece (‘The Parking Lot of the Orient’) for Aliran Monthly opposing the 9.2km cross-channel road link estimated at a cost of RM2.3bn from Bagan Ajam on the mainland to Bagan Jermal (near Gurney Drive) on the island as it would choke the island with cars.

As things turned out, the tunnel idea was scrapped. Instead of a tunnel, a second bridge was built from Batu Kawan on the mainland to Batu Maung on the island. (In the process, a certain well-connected firm bought hundreds of acres of would-be choice land in Batu Kawan near the site of the bridge on mainland Penang at a time when the state was under BN rule).

Samy Vellu’s tunnel-bridge idea was buried but it was resurrected when the Penang chief minister signed an MOU in the presence of then China Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Najib in Putrajaya on 28 April 2011. The state government then regarded it as a great honour to put forward this idea for a mega project on an international stage.

But take note that only a day earlier, 27 April 2011, the state government commissioned Halcrow to come up with a Penang transport masterplan.

This clearly means that it was not the Halcrow consultant that came up with the idea for the tunnel, which was actually Samy Vellu’s idea resurrected in a slightly different form. Instead, Halcrow had to insert it into the plan as a fait accompli, but the consultant qualified it by saying this would only be something to consider around 2030. So the tunnel wasn’t a priority.

READ MORE:  Why bulldoze through the Penang tunnel project?

Incidentally, the state government should make public once again which parties submitted responses to the “open tender” or more likely its request for proposals (for the tunnel, three highways and what-have-you) and what those responses were. Were they all bidding to construct a tunnel? (To me, an RFP is not the same as an open tender, where all the parties bid for the same thing, but the state government argues that an RFP is “a form of open tender”.)

The 7.2km tunnel idea was a useful play before the 2013 general election – just as former Penang Chief Minister Dr Lim Chong Eu’s original Penang bridge plan was usefully trotted out in general election campaigns from 1974 tol 1982 before the bridge was completed in 1985. Vote Pakatan if you want a tunnel? Seriously?

A road tunnel is not a good idea as it will only encourage more cars to flood the island and create even more jams on the island. It should be scrapped.

Meanwhile, with SRS Consortium’s expensive shopping list of transport infrastructure deservedly in limbo now, it is time to focus on realistic public transport for the more immediate future.

In particular, let’s look at implementing bus rapid transit (which incidentally is a key ingredient of the Halcrow masterplan) involving Rapid Penang (and an existing private bus network on the mainland). It is more cost effective and a lot easier to implement. Dedicated bus lanes would be a good start.

I understand Rapid Penang was trying to come up with an app for its buses. But there is an excellent public transit app, a journey planner, already out there called Moovit (one of its board members was a Waze founder). Download the app and check it out. It has the Penang bus numbers and choices of journey routes. Think of its as a ‘Grab/Uber/Waze’ app for public transit. If we can improve on it by integrating Rapid Penang’s long overdue real-time information, it would be an even more useful tool.

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The BN federal government should not get all sanctimonious. If it had provided funding for transport infrastructure (not for extravagant mega projects but for really sustainable mobility solutions), the Pakatan-led Penang government would have no justification to come up with fanciful ‘fantasy island’ plans via highly problematic swap deals calling for massive land reclamation.

The BN federal government should tell us why the Penang ferry service has been long neglected with only a skeleton service of up to four ferries (fewer during off-peak hours), when in the 1980s there were a dozen ferries running.

In fact, from the 1960s onwards, the ferry service (the first link) used to subsidise the Penang port operations. But after the bridge (the second link) was completed, the ferries were neglected. This (deliberate?) neglect had two effects: it forced more commuters to use the underutilised bridge and when that reached near full capacity, the poor neglected first link (the ferries) provided the justification for a third link (second bridge) and now a fourth link (the proposed tunnel).

And instead of the ferries subsiding the port as in the past, the port then had to subsidise the neglected ferries after the first bridge was completed. In the end, the port, now privatised, hived off the ferries, now running at a loss, to Rapid Penang. They call this “privatisation of profits and socialisation of costs/losses”.

If we had an expanded ferry service, especially if the bus services linked up more seamlessly with the ferries, we would truly have a more sustainable solution to move people not cars. This is where the BN federal government failed us.

READ MORE:  Penang Forum meets Council of Eminent Persons, urges review of RM46bn mega transport project

There is another reason why it is a real pity the ferry service has been neglected. Back then, the ferry operators were building up local skills in ferry maintenance and construction. Just imagine, if we had expanded the ferry service using local skills to build new ferries, we could have built up a real ferry construction capability and even exported ferries around the region. An opportunity lost.

For the medium term, we should look at expanding the rail network, linking up to the fairly new KTM Komuter network from Gurun to Kamunting (which also serves BM and Butterworth) as well as the electric trains from Gemas/KL to Padang Besar. Again, why hasn’t the BN federal government connected these KTM train services to the island via a cross-channel rail link?

The BRT or even the rail system can be connected to the island on one of the existing bridges or from the new Penang Sentral.

Speaking of which, I don’t know why MRCB were in a hurry to complete the huge Penang Sentral terminal on the mainland Penang seafront before the transport masterplan could be crystalised or implemented. It is like putting a great big cart in front of a horse that hasn’t even grown up.

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Where is the BayanBaru Library???
Guest
Where is the BayanBaru Library???

Undersea tunnel many people on street still cannot relate to it. At Bayan Baru, many retirees are moaning the demise of Cyber Library at Mayang Mall since June last year. Many senior folks cannot travel to Digital Library a distance away. Anil can do good service to help appeal for a new community library with internet access to the people at Bayan Baru Penang. Many seniors used to read Anilnetton.com at former cyber library upon my recommendation (1st hour free access). Some say the cyber library was previously set up by Gerakan now no more funding. YB Sim of PKR… Read more »

Library User
Guest
Library User

Oredi March the library still no happening !
We Seniors fed up with PKR Bayan Baru.
Sim to turn the failed MBPP Market Library into the Cyber Library ? Pls no election gimmicks. We paid taxes before and we deserve a public cyber library. Don’t need the ganciful 24 hours digital library but a simple one with daily newspapers can do.

Norman
Guest
Norman

The problem is the high propensity to car ownership.

RAPID for less congestion
Guest
RAPID for less congestion

Anil should focus on educating the masses to minimize personal car usage. I am still waiting Anil be a spokesperson for Rapid Penang to swing his 6K followers to abandon 2Wheelers and 4Wheelers for public system.

shrieki
Guest
shrieki

If ah pek can abandon his 4wd and let his foot do the walking and cycling, then thousand will follow the new sifu

Ma jiji
Guest
Ma jiji

The only solution right now is to stop “All Developments” in penang until a good and sensible expert report is ready even it means to wait for another 10 years !

RAPID for less congestion
Guest
RAPID for less congestion

Development, or rather Physical infrastructure development, has become taboo word in this blog for years yet no no significant action to arrest it. Just like corruption diseases spreading to become dedak virus affecting the people. Is there Light at end of tunnel, Only LORD knows?!

Norman
Guest
Norman

Happy Lunar New Year of Harapan to all readers.

RAPID for less congestion
Guest
RAPID for less congestion

Wishing all wonderful CNY. Eat moderately. Care for less fortunate. Contribute to safe and healthy environment. Walk more to burn the obesity fat residues and blood stream blockages.

Norman
Guest
Norman

A Tram service system will be introduced in Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Kajang and Bangi.

https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/41481/

Penang tram lovers wil look in envy?

KhunPana
Guest
KhunPana

What we do need is a group of futuristic planners.
In another 10 years or so, nearly all vehicles would be automated or self driven.
Under such scenario there is no need to build new roads or to have this or that tunnel.
What Penang or any cities needed most is to upgrade or to update the existing roads for the near future.
Hopefully Penang can play a major leading role instead of following BN’s blind style of infrastructure.

anton ng
Guest
anton ng

i am the true supporter of the tunnelling project;it is strategic and would help to disperse the bloated traffic in the island in the correct direction;furthermore it is a private enterprise.penang island is now a top tourist attraction;it is therefore unfair to deny them the conveniences of egress and ingress;the traffic at the penang bridge is truly heavy and sometimes the jam goes as far as the rubbish dump area ;at the southern end the second bridge is serving the populace from jawi sg.bakap nibong terbal bandar baru etc; so the tunnel would benefit those from sp kedah perlis and… Read more »

shrieki
Guest
shrieki

What does PF knows about sustainabilty? Tunnel is better in sustainability. No impact on sight, no noise pollution, no need to tear down ah pek or dummo engineer hse to make way for better infra.. Only thing is cost.

shrieki
Guest
shrieki

Building busway? PF good in screaming at state but not at central. Rapid is under MCA and Central. Dummo engineer, ah soon and calvin not interested in improving transport in pg. Why rapid dont build busway for its buses? State has to cough out its own money for better transport. Where are the taxes from cars, kapcai gies too?

Norman
Guest
Norman

Expect more publicity and advertising blitz on newspapers on CNY by local housing developers, like this one offering ‘Guaranteed Prosperity’ to capitalize on festive mood:

http://guaranteedprosperity.aspen.com.my/

Youme
Guest
Youme

MBI is incubating success with heavy advertising on The star on CNY. Likely to see Teddy sponsoring goodies during GE campaign period?

tunglang
Guest
tunglang

Penang announces RM15m free bus service
https://malaysia.yahoo.com/news/penang-announces-rm15m-free-bus-044300589.html
As usual, goodies time comes GE!
Late or never too late, just do it.
Want to win people’s heart, do it all year round. And no more panicking!

Youme
Guest
Youme

You should tell this to BN.

tunglang
Guest
tunglang

Both sides of the political divide have the same propensity to give free goodies, so what the fuss of not telling the other?
They know far, far better at this hopeless game than anyone of us!

shrieki
Guest
shrieki

Ah pek so good, what is ah pek soln?

FangFang
Guest
FangFang

Take the goodies as offered but make the right choice with your vote to end the kleptomaniac government.

tunglang
Guest
tunglang

When is IKEA coming to Seberang?
Or is it in limbo???
If it should happen, hope Rapid will serve a new route from Penang island to IKEA Seberang.

Youme
Guest
Youme

Aspen City is close to IKEA and can be a good place to live away from the crowded Penang island.

Support local family businesses
Guest
Support local family businesses

IKEA is at BatuKawan , on commercial lot developed by Aspen Group.
Please support local furniture, a sunset industry now made worse by onslaught of IKEA. A similar analogy can be the popularity of Kim Gary causing hardship to local family run restaurants.
So where we spend our money can decide the fate of traditional foamy businesses.

tunglang
Guest
tunglang

Local furniture manufac + retail businesses should be more creative, innovative & collaborative. No point trying to kill each other on the competitive instinct or phobic of IKEA, which designs + produces low cost quality furnitures & sell at quite affordable prices. Also, they should employ local 3-D designers from One Academy + Equator to do more R&D + create better designs (why copy Thailand or Indonesia?), employ the best marketing teams & collaborate with local timber industry players. Be more proactive – collaborate with Malaysian Timber Council (MTC) on the feasible approach to harvest Malaysian timber for lucrative markets.… Read more »

FangFang
Guest
FangFang

IKEA furniture good design but the wood material cannot stand big loading and the compressed wood cannot last long in our humid environment. Quite pricey consider you have to transport and assemble it yourself. It is like fast fashion of H&M, can discard after short life span.

tunglang
Guest
tunglang

Unless one is living like a sumo wrestler, IKEA is no problem.
Affordable furnishing accessories like lamps, candle stands, draperies which you cannot find in usual dept. stores.
Also, who wants to see the same old furnishing + accessories for decades?
One can donate used IKEA things (after some yrs) to the less privileged or thy neighbours who may not enjoy the good things in life.
Anybody building a car body totally with 3mm thick iron?
Petrol companies will be delighted to know!

shrieki
Guest
shrieki

Mr LKY former PM. He does what he speak out unlike ah pek barks and does opposite. Even he. cuts hills, he did for creating more spaces and turn singland into garden city.

N C
Guest
N C

Personally think that the tunnel would somewhat bring Penang and Seberang even closer. Stop thinking about it solving traffic congestion but as a bridge to connect the well developed Raja Uda side with George Town. There’s often a separation of the island Penangite and Seberang Penangite, realising that the Seberang side integrate well into the island as they need to come here to shop and have fun, seldom we heard about the island side going over to Seberang. Public transport benefits Penangite, in whole better and easier connection has to be included to fully turn both side of Penang into… Read more »

tunglang
Guest
tunglang

There are cheaper ways to bring both sides of Penang ‘closer together’.
Develop the Seberang, improve the ferry service, get Rapid to serve more routes, create more cultural & social activities, make housing cheaper & affordable.
Far cheaper & create more economic spin-off + benefits to the masses than this sea-tunnel misadventure which makes developers & the connected super-rich beyond human reasons.

shrieki
Guest
shrieki

If ah pek moves to sebarang, hundreds of thousands will follow sifu. Pg will be lighter and float up. No more flood as the ground level will raise as more people move to mainland

shrieki
Guest
shrieki

But ah pek wants to live on the island. If ah pek moves to seberang hundreds of thousands will follow him. No point … bark but but never follow principles

Jay
Guest
Jay

MCA has caused fatigue on this tunnel issue.
Don’t you have better topic?

Ma jiji
Guest
Ma jiji

In fact, tunnel is very dangerous, can cause many casualty in case of fire. Taiwan is a exemplary example !

shrieki
Guest
shrieki

Tunnels in Europe not dangerous? Man learnt from experience. Otherwise not fit for human use. If accidents, the engineer go to jail otherwise the blame goes to decision maker and can be the politician

gooner
Guest
gooner

“..with SRS Consortium’s expensive shopping list of transport infrastructure deservedly in limbo now…”

Any official updates on this? As far as I know, few ministers gave negative quotes on the SRS reclamation scheme, but has it been officially rejected/turned down?

Dorairaj Nadason
Guest

Dedicated bus lane? In chulia st, macallum, perak rd, air itam etc? Does not sound enticing… must be some other way…

shrieki
Guest
shrieki

Dedicated busway? Talk big. Where are the land? Create social problem by demolishing shops and houses? Build viaducts and flyovers? But forget how badly pf oppose the highways being proposed?

RAPID for less congestion
Guest
RAPID for less congestion

Dedicated bus stop areas not blocked by vehicles!!!

glissantia
Guest
glissantia

A CGTN programme showed the construction of a tunnel for heavy rail through a mountain range in China. It is extremely tough even using their advanced tech. As they struggle to drill, water pours down at 1000 m3/hour. Imagine how much more expensive and dangerous an undersea tunnel is. It seems to be a sign of greed out of control. As I noted before, there have been spectacular disasters in such tunnels in Japan (to Hokkaido), Europe (to UK) and elsewhere. When will this expense be recouped and repaid? How much cheaper to give free bus transport on EVERY route… Read more »

shrieki
Guest
shrieki

Tunnels are necessary. They. do not impact on the environment. They go straight line from A to B. Roads cant and animals have not crossing and will get by vehicles. How many animals are hit in NE highway. Road winding and cause more fuel to burn. Mord co2 and sea level rise

tunglang
Guest
tunglang

How much And Pow did you get from NK?

shrieki
Guest
shrieki

Ah pek, no ang pau from you? Kiam siap? Ah pek never gives. No wonder Ah pek only know And pow of American red indians.

tunglang
Guest
tunglang

Dare not answer straight to my question?
Otherwise, what a waste of life shrieking for nothing!
Maybe overt-worshipping of NK gone overboard!

glissantia
Guest
glissantia
Norman
Guest
Norman

Congestion Alleviation Transport (CAT) will not appeal to most car loving and 4W driving fanatics reading this blog.

glissantia
Guest
glissantia
Zhang Meiyou
Guest
Zhang Meiyou

Looks like this blog is joining force with BN to criticise the tunnel project?

But why must bring up Sammy Value?