Why the sudden loss of interest in the Penang tunnel?


In the months before the general election in 2013, the DAP vowed it would go ahead with the tunnel if it was returned to helm the state government. It was a juicy carrot to dangle before voters tired of the privatised (and then run down) ferry service and to alienate critics. It also added legitimacy to the plan to reclaim land off Gurney Drive for massive property development.

The tunnel was part of a lucrative ‘land-for-a tunnel and three highways’ swap deal. But the massive property development along part of Gurney Drive was not shown to the public when the ‘Gurney Wharf’ plans were put on public display. Instead, what was shown were empty pale green spaces!

Over the last few weeks, many have got the distinct impression that the Penang state government’s interest in the tunnel project, which carries a 30-year toll concession, has cooled. But few really know why. Was the state government really serious about the tunnel in the first place?

Ditching the tunnel would be a good thing. But now the state government is trying to sell the idea of a toll-free bridge. So easy to switch from tunnel to bridge?

It makes one wonder what kind of planning and thought goes into these fanciful schemes. After all, the tunnel was not the idea of Halcrow, the Penang transport masterplan consultants. My impression is that it was the state government that wanted Halcrow to insert the tunnel into the masterplan.

Instead of cancelling the tunnel project and continuing to ask the federal government publicly to hand over the ferry service, the state government now seems more intent on requesting another mega project – a third bridge. Never mind that there’s hardly much traffic on the new second bridge most of the time, to begin with.

In June, it was reported that the RM6.3bn tunnel and three highways project had been delayed.

The three highways had been approved by the state, but they are pending an EIA.

But what was causing a delay in the tunnel? Why did the state government request tunnel developer Zenith BUCG to halt the feasibility study? theSun reported in June 2016:

Construction work for the three major roads has been delayed while the feasibility study for the undersea tunnel has been halted.

“The state government told us to stop the feasibility study and detailed design (83% completed) for now. We were not told the reason. I think they want us to start on the three major roads as soon as possible,” said Zarul.

He said it was told to stop the feasibility study for the undersea tunnel about a month ago. To date, the consortium has spent close to RM100 million on the feasibility study and detailed design, for which it has not been paid yet.

On whether the undersea tunnel will be cancelled or replaced by a third bridge, Zarul said it is up to the state government to decide.

“There is no compensation in the agreement. Whatever work we have done, we will claim from them,” he said, when asked about compensation if the undersea tunnel is scrapped…

To date, CZBUCG has completed RM220 million worth of works for the three major roads and has received one parcel of land worth RM135 million.

However, CZBUCG said it has received only 3.67 acres of land to date, out of the total 110 acres promised by the state government as payment-in-kind.

(Update: A swift clarification was made the following day to the effect that the tunnel project was still on, though it would depend on the detailed EIA. The tunnel was reportedly still feasible.)

Since then, it does sound as if interest in the tunnel has waned. Is it because the City of Dreams luxury condo project – which would have helped to raise funds – cannot go ahead for now after the Appeals Board imposed a stay order in July 2015? A dozen Seri Tanjung Pinang residents had appealed to the board about their unhappiness over the density and height of the project.

That’s precisely the problem with swap deals. It is easy to run into regulatory roadblocks on either side of the deal. What happens then?

So who is ultimately going to bear the RM100m feasibility study and design cost of the tunnel if it doesn’t go ahead?

And why the reluctance now to hand over the 83 per cent of the work done on the tunnel feasibility study to the federal government, which wants to have a look? What harm is there? After all, some parts of those studies might be relevant – like the alignment of the route and the condition of the seabed. It would also tell us what the studies reveal so far about the feasibility of a tunnel.

A bridge might be cheaper than a tunnel, but a toll-free bridge? Who would pay for the maintenance then?

Is that so that the 110-acre land swap would still be deemed necessary? After all, plans for the massive 50-acre Wellness CIty of Dreams project – with a gross development value of RM14bn – on reclaimed land in front of Gurney Plaza, to be undertaken by tunnel developer Zenith and Ewein, had been reported.

So many questions, so few real answers. What we know now is that instead of the tunnel project, a third bridge idea is being floated. All this suggests that the tunnel project and now the third bridge are not well thought-out projects.

Instead of a tunnel or a new bridge for more cars, why not just cheaper BRT and tram links on the existing two Penang bridges, a new rail link and an improved ferry service? But that wouldn’t fit with the 131-acre Gurney Drive land reclamation narrative being put forward.

Take a look at the letter below and see how interest in the tunnel has waned. What happened to all the pre-GE2013 talk about a tunnel?

PSUKPP/21/0353/46 (20)

3 Ogos 2016

YB Dato’ Sri Haji Fadillah Bin Haji Yusof
Menteri Kerja Raya,
Kementerian Kerja Raya,
Tingkat 6, Blok B Kompleks Kerja Raya,
Jalan Sultan Salahuddin,
50580 Kuala Lumpur [No. Faks: 03-27113288]

Yang Berhormat Dato’ Sri,


Dengan hormatnya saya merujuk kepada perkara tersebut di atas dan juga surat Yang Berhormat Dato’ Sri yang bertarikh 25 Julai 2016 berkaitan perkara di atas.

2. Sebagaimana yang Yang Berhormat Dato’ Seri sedia maklum, Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang amat komited dan bersungguh-sungguh dalam mengusulkan rancangan pembinaan Jambatan Ketiga Pulau Pinang tanpa tol, jambatan utama pertama di Malaysia yang bebas daripada pelaksanaan tol. Hasrat Kerajaan Negeri untuk mempertingkatkan sistem pengangkutan moden yang menghubungkan Seberang Perai Utara (SPU) dengan kawasan Pulau adalah satu inisiatif penambahbaikan “connectivity” sedia ada di Pulau Pinang yang boleh membawa pembangunan seimbang di kawasan SPU.

3. Seperti yang dipohon oleh Yang Berhormat Dato’ Sri, laporan kebolehlaksanaan projek terowong bawah dasar laut dan laporan rekabentuk akan dikemukakan kepada pihak Yang Berhormat Dato’ Sri sebaik ianya siap pada penghujung tahun ini atau awal tahun hadapan. Kini kemajuannya adalah di tahap 83% siap.

4. Kerajaan Negeri kurang faham logik Yang Berhormat Dato’ Sri yang perlukan kajian kebolehlaksanaan projek terowong bawah dasar laut sedangkan ianya tiada kaitan dengan jambatan ketiga. Yang diminta oleh Kerajaan Negeri adalah kelulusan bagi jambatan ketiga dan bukannya terowong bawah dasar laut.

5. Oleh itu, kami amat berharap supaya permohonan terhadap cadangan pembinaan projek jambatan ketiga ini diberi kelulusan secara prinsip oleh pihak Yang Berhormat Dato’ Sri supaya Kerajaan Negeri dapat mengambil tindakan sewajarnya ke arah merealisasikan pelaksanaan projek tersebut.


Yang ikhlas,


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Three times, the Penang EXCO said the value of the land to be swapped was RM475psf.

9th May – https://www.facebook.com/cmlimguaneng/posts/1271312476232184

12th May – https://www.facebook.com/notes/cm-lim-guan-eng/rahman-dahlan-masih-ulangi-ptanyaan-sama-buat-dakwaan-tidak-berasas-exco/1168991859791190

24th May – https://www.facebook.com/buletinmutiara/posts/1319024578114989

After we keep showing them the agreements of the company selling the land for RM1300psf, the Penang EXCO forced to say that these are private transactions.

25th May – https://www.facebook.com/buletinmutiara/posts/1319854508031996

Finally, please read this summary and look at the video of Tokong admitting: https://www.facebook.com/lim.siansee/videos/1840270892858363/

David Loman

This SiaBoey site could be the hiding place for the rare Pokemons ‘Articuno’ and ‘Mew’, very much sought after by the Pokemon Go hunters.

Here is the list of Pokemon Go hotspots in Penang:

David Loman

Tunnel will go on if toll free 3rd bridge not approved by Fed Gov – CM

ong eu soon

In September 2011, the cost for the roads and tunnels project was quoted by the state government’s official website as RM4.08 billion. Lim Guan Eng unashamedly claimed that was a typo error. I have reason to believe that was the price quoted by China Railway Construction Corporation. In the 2012 financial report, CRCC announced that it has secured the Penang Roads and Tunnels project worth $1.19 billion. The cost of the project was eventually jacked up to RM6.3 billion when it was awarded to Consortium Zenith Bucg Sdn Bhd. (Is this) a scandalous move by Lim Guan Eng administration which… Read more »


Ah Soon,
Party machinery needs lubricant$ to stay running, just like your orchard needs fertili$we to beat fruits.
Simple logic Ah Pek Ah Mah can appreciate with charity angpows for golden years.


Take both hands to clap.islanders go mainland to buy landed cheaper house and sing Stevie wonder’ s part time lover and sending siblings for higher efucation


That is why chec as quoted by anil is doing mega jobs with chip chip price. CRCC can build roads and tunnel for 1.1 billion in future ringgit and must be many times cheaper than Penang 2 crossing at 4.5 billion. How can tunnel and road can be much cheaper than bridge in future ringgit. CRCC had to dig 2 tunnels and an emergency passage. 1.1 billion for 3 tunnels? Must be like olden piggies where chinese forced to build yankee railway. Why not 2 sided complain? Chip chip must complain,?


Second crossing is 4.5b but tunnel plus highway quoted by CRCC in Ah soon is 1.1b. in recent price. Tunnel is 4 times shorter? Why not Gelakan Gomen built shorter route in first place? Longer but more share and more digging out from tax payers?

peter pang

Really sad to see this 3rd link project which is absolutely critical for Penang’s future mired in so much politics. Already both the Ferry and the 1st bridge is overcapacity, slow and falling apart, and the 2nd bridge is completely useless for daily users. If they do not get this 3rd link project started quickly, by 2025 Penang Island will be facing a Transportation Crisis of EPIC proportions. Daily commuters from the island to the mainland will know, and can already see very clearly the looming crisis now. The NGOs are very good at holding press conferences and making placards… Read more »

peter pang

A new ferry port from Gurney to Bagan Ajam that mention indeed would be very welcomed by the people of the north of the island and the mainland. I can only hope that you will use your position as an adviser on the independent PTMP panel to lobby and make it happen. As it stands now, the BCF plan is heavily biased towards the Core Heritage Zone and non inclusive and shuts out people in the north of the island and the mainland. It is also heavily caters towards men in Suits who travel to work daily with one teeny… Read more »

james k

Care to explain how BCF’s plan caters heavily to the so-called ‘men in suits’, Peter?

peter pang

If you have taken the time to read the entire BCF document like I have, It talks about congestion charging, It talks about walking and Bicycles, It has about 50 pages of color photos of trams, It has half a page dedicated to the mainland, It has no provisions for future road improvements. It outlines just 2 tram lines covering a tiny minute section of the island yet it calls itself a “Master Plan”, No mention of improving connectivity with the mainland, Basically the BCF is a Tram Catalog. So basically people like hawkers and traders and handymen and people… Read more »


problem is power from state, eastern cat and orang people have their power eroded by the central and commonweath gomen. to operate the service, anil must also seek and talk to the federation. how anil is going to climb the mt federal. mt komtar, sup sup shui. bo men tui.

peter pang

Reply to Mr Netto : No, I have not “Missed Out” your “our BCF recommendations for several major Bus Rapid Transit lines on the mainland.” Did you notice I mentioned the Teeny Tiny half a page dedicated to the mainland in my previous comment to James K ? Well, just to clarify to you, I meant that Teeny Tiny half a page dedicated to the mainland that you kindly highlighted to me. That Teeny Tiny half a page dedicated to the mainland out of 60 other full color pages dedicated to the island is a perfect example of how biased,… Read more »

peter pang

Mr Netto, So, BCF Fully Supports all the findings of the Halcrow Reports ? REALLY ? If that is the case, then I have No Problems at All with the BCF plan, and I will Fully Support it, Because I believe that the Halcrow Reports are Inclusive, Fair to the whole state and also Forward Thinking till the Year 2025. So, I ask you again directly, I and many others would appreciate a straightforward and direct answer , Mr Netto, Is the BCF fully supportive of the Halcrow Reports ? It has been stated clearly in the Better Cheaper Faster… Read more »


Just simple question which you can answer based on halcrow’s report. Did halcrow say about funding for the construction? From funding from federal Gomen?

peter pang

Thank you Mr Netto for clarifying BCF’s position on Halcrow’s recommendation on the tunnel, I have been trying to get this answer for ages from Eric Britton and Khoo Salma on the Sustainable Penang FB page, but they have continually both Evaded and Ignored my simple and straightforward questions . I suppose They refused to confirm BCF’s position on these enormous issues probably because it would make their so called “Cheaper” plan more expensive. But their sole agenda is to make SRS look bad and get trams , so I can’t blame them. But their lack of commitment has made… Read more »


Agree. The tram will even be slower if ah pek start to search shillings and pennies in his pockets to buy ticket from the driver. One ah pek OK but say 2 ah pek and at every stop, what different from buses? Those on suit will go back to using cars. Anil do not realise why Sydney introduce opal card like sing mrt card to cut short the travelling time. Everyone will take KL star or putra because they know the travelling time. But buses and anything on road the time changes from day to day and time to time.… Read more »


Elementary Watson. How many passengers can bus carry as compare to trams? Bus burn $$$ when petrol is more than $100 per barrel. City councils in other countries face smog as more buses required on road. But here, central Gomen run all the transport show. Trams run on coal power statio which is not in my backward. Who in city cares about poor cousins in countryside as long as it is not in my backyard. Selection activist.


soon rakyat will lose interest. where pg gomen is going to get the money? further amno gelakan gomen going to give licence to run busway tram or lrt with free lunch and kopi kua kua? pg will be like sliver state decline. the airport and seaport cannot expand. better to rhrow money in kedah and kuantan port. manufacturing cannot compete with land of smiles or angkor new order or viet congs. worse people just complain not solving problems.


Peter Pang
No need worry as more islanders shall move over to mainland due to high cost living on island. When it happens, maybe you ought to prepare for mainland street food prices to soar accordingly. Catch22.


Peter Pang should cherish the tranquility of the mainland side of Penang.


More people in mainland? Then more cooks and kopi kau kau will move to mainland. Without regular shots since many cooks left pg island, soon the rest will follow moving to mainland


good luck to you. ideal properties is bringing upto 40% of his client from mainland to take over. like in mainland too bored. bring all those baby boomrrs in pg forum to mainland and built eagle nest.


Ideal clients from mainland buy homes on islands as boarding homes of their children seeking tertiary education, and also for other occasionally love interest rendezvous the husbands or wives being kept not be aware of.

Mannan Thalapathi

get the basic public amenities in right order first should be the priority.

Penang pedestrian walks should be accessible with no trees or paking bikes blocking the pedestrian.

Encourage more walking less driving.


Anil’s portrait photo on page A14 of today’s Oriental Daily newspaper, regarding Penang population growth and transport plan. Do not confuse with the mugshots of Nigerian scammers in the next few pages of the same paper.

Super Rajni Star

Will be good if someone can scan the page for the readers.
btw, will there be penang transport meeting this week open to public ?


The report said most Malaysian migrants to Penang are from Kedah.
Expect more Kedahans to Penang as many fear that PAS will return as Umno is weakened by internal squabbles, and fervour Islamisation like in Kelantan will be implemented by PAS. So there is always demand for new homes from Kedah folks, especially the Chinese.

Xiao Chui

What did Anil say in the report?

David Loman

Inflow of new migrants for Penang high rise properties are offset by outflow of Penang Malays to mainland seeking kampung pasture? Is this how the equilibrium is maintained?


if equalisation, why many condos, houses, roads and shopping malls are built? who can enstien this puzzle?


buying up properties as legacies to pass down to their children as ringgit will have little value down the road.


Then why buy properties in of when mainland can be cheaper? Chinese moving away from Kedah? But people here clamour to get rid of dap. Lge take boleh. Tokong only human. Go back to Gelakan and umno … back to the same question why they leave kedah.
Why blame state Gomen if ringgit under central admin is like rupiah and make rakyat to invest in property? Can invest in edu but not housing?


What experience does the “tunnel developer” have? In Bolehland, there are no limits on “outsourcing” contracts. One way or another, the public will pay for the work so far. Remember the payment for the cancelled “crooked” bridge to Singapore?

When it first came to power, the state gomen was singing a different tune. It recognised the unique attraction of the ferry service. Now, it avoids the subject and seems unconcerned that the efforts to completely destroy it are proceeding.


simple if one can get approval from mt federal and it to mt komtar. state has contract out pg transport to built lrt to src who in return has to go to mt federal …. no go. … fees has to be added from 1 partyto another.no one explain there is no free lunch from giver and takers?

james k

The whole tunnel issue has been fishy since the beginning. Came-out-of-nowhere developer selected (was the open tender process even revealed?), huge land reclamation approved without studies, land given for high-density development without public consultation etc. Don’t forget that after the developer announced the order by state gov to stop the studies, within 24 hours another press conference was held with CM to refute the prior announcement altogether (http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2016/06/15/undersea-tunnel-still-on-says-penang-govt/). Very confusing. And the excuse ‘due to fasting month’ was given. I mean- Huh?? What are the implications if a bridge instead of tunnel is built? What happens to the MoU with… Read more »


Obviously, the Penang govt cannot pay the contractor Zenith BUCG half-way through (because of the delay in reclamation work) hence the dillydally now ! In other words, keep finding excuses for their shortcomings ?
It’s a shame when the project deal was first signed with a MOU on 28 April 2011, witnessed by the then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and our Malaysian Prime Minister Najib. What sort of a joking dealy ?!


They keep changing their plans since day one and that’s why the delay. Nothing come out until today even some of the roads don’t really need “detailed” EIA to build e.g. the very recent 1/3 complete Farlim/Paya Terubong/Bukit Jambu bypass was only started the beginning of this year 2016.


Hahaha, now that the works minister fadillah’s statement in The Star is just good fit into LGE’s overted and coverted plan of delaying lah ! 遥遥无期咯。。。。。(never ending time of completions)


LGE cannot be trusted. Listen okay but never trust….

Don’t u remember that he wrote long-long that the snap polls are urgently needed to save Penang and save Malaysia?

Now that the polls have been cancelled, does it mean there is no more need to save Penang and save Malaysia?

Super Rajni Star

Listen to what Rajanikanth said about politcian here

Politicians with conscience these days hard to find !

Bashaa Anamalai

Do check out M.G.R. cafe at 64 China Street honouring icon with his mobie still pictures inside. Must support such simple kopitiam that brings nolstalgic feel to the customers.
Anil may one day write from there with meals n kopi o not exceeding RM8. Support simplicity not bilions setup!

Johan Khun Pana

As a general rule , no politicians can be trusted. ( you may however take 50% of their words as honest truth) , in Malaysia or elsewhere. As long as they (the ADUNs or MPs) perform their basic elementary functions , not playing truant (ponteng) when the hall is in session and not busy amassing personal wealth while in office and/or to reward themselves with high position after their term ended. The said tunnel can be and could be part of their election gimmick. We were all waiting like fools as to if and when we could hold City/Town mayor… Read more »

LGE tak boleh

Why Ewein, a listed property company, the developer of City of Dreams luxury condo, did not make a material announcement to Bursa when there is hiccup in its development project?


Gerakan lagi tak boleh. Just look at the clowns like Tan Keng Liang.


Travel in tunnels one can potentially witness conjuring paranormal incidents from the wandering souls in the seabed so best avoid it.

Johan Khun Pana

Paying RM 100 million / USD 25 million to do a marine ghouls avoidance study is worth it.
At least we know which sea route to avoid.
*maybe that goon is correct, that after paying taxes/levies/duties/GST
The money belongs to the government and nobody else can question.

Lim Guan Eng better make up his mind.
A tunnel or another bridge or both.


Why 2nd bridge link to Batu Kawan not Bayan Ajam in the very first place ? To set up a successful FTZ at Batu Kawan now appear a daunting task with Seagate closure and many other MNCs may not our “sleep on job” culture to move to more vibrant and cheaper homogeneous countries like Vietnam and Myanmar with less racial/religious conflicts?


Ahhaa… since the second bridge was the project of the federal govt “the someone” has to be related to 1MDB ??

Awang Khenit

Even Penang football team is back to City Stadium on the island instead of playing at Batu Kawan stadium. If I am not wrong, Batu Kawan was the pet project during Regime Pak Lah. Bajau Ajam is now getting some ‘limelight’ lately, hopefully not in red-light as Zoro has suspected to be haunt for part-time lovers.


May be zoro singing I just call to say I love you to his part timers on mainland or island depending on where he’s staying now. May be Ah Soon can unmask him? 🙂


All of us here are part timer lovers. We love to comment and support anil’s blog part time. Anil, agree? If we are caught in a traffic jam, we will not have the time to log into anil’s blog.