Why the SRS Penang transport proposal should be reviewed

The RM46bn SRS rojak

The whole “PTMP” should be reviewed. It is not a sustainable mobility masterplan formulated by independent experts. Instead it is an extravagant proposal put forward by those with vested interests in the project. The scheme is also ridden with conflicts of interests, which I had persistently raised at Penang Transport Council meetings.

In the first of a three-part series, Lim Mah Hui and Ahmad Hilmy explain why the proposal should be reviewed.

Now is a good time for the Penang state government and the public to revisit and review the SRS Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) for four reasons.

First, SRS, the project proponent is having difficulty fulfilling the first and foremost condition of the agreement, ie to provide a bridge loan to kickstart the project. Volume 1 page 1-06 of the SRS proposal states that the PTMP project “does NOT require the state (or the federal government) to raise or guarantee any loans to finance the delivery of the TMP” (emphasis from original text). All funds will come from reclamation of the three islands. SRS will provide an initial bridging loan of RM1.3bn, which will be paid by the state including interest. Since this condition is not fulfilled, does the agreement still hold?

Second, instead of reviewing the scale of the project, the state government is reaching out to multiple sources to fund the PTMP. It initially asked the federal government for a couple of billion ringgit and, in the latest round, for RM10bn. It has even approached a Japanese government agency for funding.

Third, certain projects are no longer relevant due to the change of government at the federal level. In particular, the cross-channel tunnel was proposed because it was argued that the BN-led federal government would not approve a third bridge. This is no longer relevant. Conversely, improvement of the ferry link that was under BN’s control should now be resuscitated.

Finally, one should not “over-plan” with rapid changes in technology. The Autonomous Rail Transit (ART), or the trackless tram, did not exist when the PTMP was conceived. This technology was invented and introduced in China two years ago. Hailed as a transformative technology, it can do what trams and LRTs do but better, cheaper and faster. Qatar will be the first country outside China to adopt it in time for the 2022 World Cup.

In this three-part series, we will ask the following questions:

  1. Does Penang need to spend RM46bn for the SRS PTMP?
  2. Will it solve Penang’s transport woes?
  3. Are there better, cheaper and faster alternatives?

Table 1.1 summarises the major components of the RM46bn PTMP project.

Source: SRS Vol. II B, Book 1 of 1; Public Accounts Committee Report

Note: The RM45bn does not include the monorail line from Butterworth to Bukit Mertajam shown on the SRS map. The cost estimates of PIL1 and LRT as reported in recent press articles keep escalating. The PDP fees and reimbursements make up 10% of the total RM45bn.

Phase 1 under the SRS proposal will take eight years to complete. It is essentially made up of two gargantuan infrastructure projects: the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1) and the LRT. The other road projects come under the Zenith package in the Halcrow Plan. This consists of one cross-channel tunnel and three major highways (the North Coast Paired Road, the highway from Ayer Itam to LCE Expressway, and the Gurney Road to LCE Expressway).

We argue that all these projects can either be cancelled or replaced with better, cheaper and faster alternatives.

1. Cancel PIL 1 = cost savings RM9bn

There is indisputable scientific evidence that simply building more roads does not solve traffic congestion. It may alleviate congestion for a short period but it will eventually encourage more traffic, leading us back to square one.

The SRS consultants who did the detailed environmental impact assessment for PIL admitted this fact. In Chapter 8 p.8-79, it says: by 2030, “During the AM peak hour, PIL1 is expected capture between 5,700 PCUs/hr and 7,800 PCUs/hr, which represents a capture rate of between 19% and 23%. In the PM peak PIL1 is expected to capture between 7,500 PCUs/hr and 8,000 PCUs/hr, representing between 18% and 29% capture rates.”

In plain English, PIL1 will experience traffic congestion six years after it is completed! So, we take seven years to build the highway, causing major disruptions and misery, and “enjoy” fast travel for six years. Then we are back to square one.

Chow Kon Yeow and Lim Kit Siang recognised this fact. In 2002, both were dead against the Penang Outer Ring Road (Porr), which was the precursor of today’s PIL1. Porr’s road alignment is the same, except PIL1 is longer and extends further south while Porr veers east to the LCE Expressway, and this route is traced by the upcoming Zenith Package 2 highway.

Quote from Chow on 29 May 2002 at a DAP function:

  • “If the findings of the Halcrow Report are true, Dr Koh would be irresponsible in pushing the PORR through as this would not be a long-term solution to the traffic congestion on the island.”

Quote from Lim, cited in Malaysiakini on 28 May 2002:

  • “The nightmare of the Penang traffic congestion is likely to be back to square one, not in eight years but probably less than five years, after the completion of PORR…
  • What Penang needs is an efficient public transport system based on sustainable transport policy, as PORR is not a medium-term let alone long-term solution to the traffic congestion nightmare on the island.”

2. Cancel cross-channel tunnel = cost savings RM3.5bn

In the first place, building a cross-channel tunnel is not a priority.

Table 1.2 shows the traffic volume in Penang during morning and evening peak hours. Of the 250,000 person trips made during peak hours, only 7% are cross-channel traffic. Traffic within Penang island is the highest at 43% and within the mainland at 35%.

It is clear that the authors of the Halcrow Report do not consider building the cross-channel tunnel a priority in addressing Penang’s transportation. Nevertheless, they included it in their report for reasons that were not made public, leading to concerns raised by the public as to whether they were under pressure to do so.

Table 1.2

Source: Halcrow: PTMP Strategy. Concise Version: p. 3

The first Penang bridge has three lanes in each direction. A simple solution that will cost next to nothing is to create an additional contraflow lane in the direction of the island during morning peak hours, ie having four lanes into the island and two lanes into the mainland. This contraflow lane should be a bus-high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane, ie to be shared between buses and high occupancy vehicles (cars with three or more passengers). The reverse happens during evening peak hours. This concept of bus-HOV lane can be used effectively to solve Penang’s cross-channel traffic jam. Enforcement is simple with the installation of dashcams at the back of each bus. Stiff and deterrent fines like RM1,000 should keep offenders away.

Dr Lim Mah Hui is a former professor and international banker and was on the Penang Island City Council for six years.


Ahmad Hilmy is a transport engineer and associate professor at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Please help to support this blog if you can.

Read the commenting guidlelines for this blog.
Notify of

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Lim Goh Poh

Hard pil for CM Chow to swallow?


Simple approach of deploying a fleet of mini electric buses on island for accessibility, punctuality, affordability and practicality can win the hearts of voters now that global financial meltdown is looming large with China-USA Japan-SKorea trade wars, Brexit, North Korea and Iran retaliation brewing.

Time for kopi-o to calm down and relax.


hehe…if the road jam, you think your electric bus can fly? a mini bus mean pathetic space for the passenger…good luck with your daughter sitting neck and neck with 10 others foreign workers…..LOL


Chee Cheong Fun breakfast at Chowrasta Market:

Tunglang, what is your verdict?


Hock Chai strikes again!
This time the famous mee goreng of Bangkok Lane.

Lim Goh Poh

With so visible concrete structures coming into the island its best now to follow Singapore vision to make Penang as green as posdible.


Just need to create awareness of global warming impact and the need to have plants to absorb carbon in the atmosphere.

We hope Penang Forum can champion this ad this is easier to tackle to overcome ptmp consequences.


Report: Temasek cancels RM1.3b project with Penang https://malaysia.yahoo.com/news/report-temasek-cancels-rm1-3b-011313509.html KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 8 — Singapore’s Temasek Holdings has cancelled an RM1.3 billion business outsourcing project (BPO) with the Penang government, New Straits Times reported today. The daily cited an unnamed spokesman for the Singapore sovereign wealth fund attributing “market conditions” for dropping the development. “Temasek and its partners, PDC and EDIS have carefully deliberated on it and the parties have come to an agreement not to proceed with the development of BPO Prime in Penang, principally due to market conditions. My Observations: Signs of impending economic troubles between US & China… Read more »


Good news, as Mayang Mall can now reinstate the former library.

PH that it won last year’s general elections because Malaysians trusted it would repair the economy, clean up the country’s reputation tarnished by the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal and make them proud to fly the Jalur Gemilang again. Sad to see after a year PH is cracking and breaking because it seems that now the party flag is more important than the country flag. It seems they prefer to fly their party flags first and the Jalur Gemilang second!


ya…what a wonderful news…hehe…hundreds of jobs and business opportunities going down the drain..won’t hurt our rich retired elite of NGOs a bit…they don’t need those jobs..


InvestPenang says ‘soft’ property market killed RM1.3b BPO Prime project https://malaysia.yahoo.com/news/investpenang-says-soft-property-market-073257078.html GEORGE TOWN, Aug 8 ― The termination of Penang’s RM1.3 billion joint venture BPO Prime was a mutual decision reached with Singapore’s Temasek Holdings due to the softening conditions in the current property market, Datuk Seri Lee Kah Choon said today. The InvestPenang executive director said a survey conducted by a consultant showed demand for housing property had weakened substantially. “As a result, the joint venture parties decided to terminate the project,” he told Malay Mail when contacted. My Observation: Lee Kah Choon is more realistic to back off… Read more »


Simple, just replace the transportation plan with a fleet of electric buses from BYD China.


With world’s first all-electric public transport network, technology hub Shenzhen has taken pole position in a nationwide drive towards green development


RM 2-3 billion (as Tony Pua suggested earlier) compared to RM42 billion? Don’t be against “progress”, Mahathir said in the 1990s. All neo-liberals including most of the economist “scholars”, “international “experts such as WB, etc. say “we” will die without economic growth. Never mind if climate change and industrial poisoning wipes out the masses and the planet – in as little as 10-15 years. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die”. Contrary to propaganda, the largest “offshore banking centres” are USA, UK and Switzerland. They are an essential nexus in the corruption that underlies neo-colonialism and the current… Read more »


It is getting difficult to get a kickback from a China enterprise. The country is moving fast in multiple fronts. Read up on “xiaokang”, and get ready to be shocked by the end of 2021. Hence the imperial desperation in trying to interfere in Xinjiang and Myanmar (to block BRI) and HK.


Kuala Lumpur has the world’s first all-electric Bus Rapid Transit system: BRT–Sunway Line with over 3 miles of elevated route through the city, and operated by 15 electric buses supplied by BYD.



Even if replace with golden bus what is the point if no one wants to take the bus if they have cars. What is the point if the bus is unreliable and ltke tu Lang kbkb that he waited for more than half hour for the bus to come. Our kbkb tu Lang is still have a car and once a 4wd with front monkey bars. Pg forum just want to argue. Even the lastest auto tram from China, will jam the road and delay the travelling time. Once the time is delay it become unreliable and who wants to… Read more »


Why do you still have a bone to pick with tulang? You should advise your DAPCat not to be arrogant and out of touch with the ground sentiments in the Khat and Lynas issue. Already many will vote in Gerakan or MCA in GE15 to balance the force now that the infighting PH has failed in the promised reform and betrayed the voters.


Yes, unlike you divert and walk round bush. Anil took the trouble to bring out this issue and you can only say something else.
I am just bringing a fact. Tu Lang kbkb that the rapid bus took a long time to come


You are a cyber bully or cyber trooper for Komtar. No value add in your comment all personal attack. Sad for you.
At least tunglang writes with substance!


If only Niao Kong was not ‘promoted’ to Finance Ministry, I don’t think he would have been soooo amenable to Khat die-hards but defy them like a Chinese opera red face character Hongsheng in the role of Guan Gong!
Go see the TeoChew Opera for the shrieking vocal effects of Guan Gong now omnipresent nightly in many streets of Penang during this Hungry Ghost Month!
Even the undead would have clapped in approval to Penang’s Only Guan Gong for a job well done! If only.

Lim Goh Poh

Be a gentleman dont pick on fellow penang lang especially now hungry ghost period. Why cant you resolve your issues? The more grudges the more negative vibes entering your mind and soul amd thats not healthy.


Why not ask anil to pick different subject? Since it was brought out. Discuss it. Talk about bus. Buses are not reliable. Now many peng land forum take buses? Tu Lang tried but kbkb that his his bus take a long time to come. U rather take MRT or lrt. Sydney has new LRT comes regularly between 5 to 10 minutes. Who complains? Mind you ask roger and school kids. You pay what you get. In lrt, you pay first to get in. In buses, all have to wait for passengers to pay before moving. Junction stops the buses. Driver… Read more »


FYI, many cities in China have electric buses. They banned kapchais to reduce pollution and global warming.


Why Seni Khat implementation in Primary 4 next year should be reviewed:

Lim Goh Poh

Computer coding is critical for ew IR4.O AI era. Learn the algorithmic logic then a primary stdent can even create all sorts of caligraphyy at the touch of a buttton. Can also create fanciful transport plan options.


Have science and arts streams in primary school. The former can learn coding, the latter can learn khat.


Can you stick to the subject. Anil has been trying hard to have a discussion in this issue but Peng land Lang do not or doesnot want to discuss it. Want to talk like hungry ghost.