(Penang, Tuesday): DAP welcomes the assurance given by
Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon yesterday that there is nothing
in the Penang Outer Ring Road Project (PORR) which “cannot see the light of
day “ (Kwong Wah Yit Poh) and calls on the Penang State Government to
make public all studies on Penang’s traffic problems and all documentation
related to PORR to underscore his claim, in particular:
The people of Penang have been told
that the state government had taken measures to keep the PORR toll low and
reasonable, reducing the originally proposed toll by 41% from RM1.70 per toll
station to RM 1 by sacrificing 31 ha of prime state land worth RM200 million to
Peninsular Metroworks Sdn Bhd and 500 acres of reclaimed land on the sea front
off Gurney Drive which would be worth some RM3 billion.
The people cannot just accept without question the bald claim of the State Government that it had successfully reduced the proposed toll rate of RM1.70 to RM1 for each of the four PORR toll stations by sacrificing 31 ha of prime state land the 500 acres of reclaimed land off Gurney Drive, as they are entitled to facts and figures to establish.
Firstly, why PORR cannot be toll-free like the Jelutong Expressway
(JEway) whose concessionaire was given the
right to reclaim 132 ha of land for property development, but was not allowed to
impose toll or given any prime state land.
Secondly, was the concessionaire being reasonable to ask for
RM1.70 toll at each of the four PORR toll stations or was it merely an inflated
and extravagant claim so that both Peninsular Metroworks Sdn Bhd and the State
Government can both look good for knocking it down to RM1?
Thirdly, what are the estimated gross profits that will accrue to
Peninsular Metroworks Sdn Bhd from the 30-year PORR concession – both from
toll collections as well as the 31 ha prime State land and 500 acres of
reclaimed land off Gurney Drive?
Tsu Koon should explain why for such a
massive project as PORR, concrete date and studies on it are so wanting, and he
should give a full list of the studies which the State Government had
commissioned during his 12 years as Penang Chief Minister into the traffic
congestion nightmare of the Penang Island – apart from the Halcrow Report on
Penang Urban Transport Study 1998 and the ancient Japanese International
Co-operation Agency (JICA) study more than two decades ago in 1981.
What the people of Penang should be
most concerned is whether PORR will only have a utility life-span of less than
five years, and for the next 25 years, Penangites will be paying toll just to
get from one traffic congestion to another congestion – as is the case in some
tolled roads in Kuala Lumpur, the “privilege” to pay toll to get into the
The Penang State Exco tomorrow should
take the decision to immediately make public the Halcrow Penang Urban Transport
Study 1998 and clarify whether Penangites will be paying toll just to get from
one traffic jam to another after the expiry of effective five-year utility
life-span of PORR after its completion.
According to the Halcrow Report, the
PORR would ease traffic flow and save travel time significantly after its
construction. But after eight years, traffic volume would increase so fast that
it would overwhelm the capacities of existing roads resulting in reduced vehicle
speed and longer travel time.
The Halcrow Report states: “(There
would be) significant improvement in travel conditions following the
introduction of the outer ring road. However, these benefits will be eroded over
time, such that by 2010, network conditions will be worse than current base year
In other words, 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, as the Halcrow
Report was based on the assumption that the PORR would be ready by 2002 and that
the third link would have connected George Town with Butterworth with the
Northern International Airport on two reclaimed Kedah islands up and operating!
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.
For medium and long-term improvements,
the Halcrow report recognized that a sensible option in promoting continued and
sustained growth for Penang would be for the “car adapting to the city” in
the case of Singapore, rather than the ‘”city adapting to the car” in the
case of Bangkok.
The JICA Urban Transport study in 1981
had projected the per capita vehicle ownership for Penang to be 6.1 persons per
car and 5.7 persons per motorcycle by the year 2000. However, these levels were
surpassed even before 1990 and ownership levels in Penang are comparable to
developed countries with 3 persons per car. Thus, in the year 2000, Penang had
321 cars per 1000 persons compared to 96 for Singapore and 49 for Hong Kong.
While the total road length in the
state increased by about 38% between 1990 and 2000, the total registered
vehicles in the state increased by 107%. Vehicle density thus increased by 1.5
times while the number of vehicles per 1000 persons more than doubled.
The Halcrow Report recommended that
“measures to enhance the bus system should be pursued with great urgency”,
but this has clearly been ignored by the State Government.
The State Exco tomorrow should give
immediate attention to the drawing up of a viable public transport master plan
that can be implemented in the next two years to achieve the reduction of
traffic congestion, considering options like an efficient public bus system, the
monorail, LRT, etc, so that Penang can be a role model of sustainable
transportation instead of being the latest victim of motorization and the
destruction of architecture, heritage and culture.