Penang Forum initially mooted the idea for a public transport plan, now known as PTMP, to the Penang state government in 2008. Promoting an evidence-based policy making approach to transport planning, Penang Forum assisted the state government in engaging the international Halcrow consultancy and facilitated the consultant’s work. After months of data collection and public consultations, Halcrow drew up Recommended Transport Master Plan Strategy (‘Halcrow Plan’) featuring an extensive network of trams and BRT, the public transport component estimated to cost below RM10bn.
When the plan was nearly finalized, Halcrow was pressured to include Ewein’s Zenith–BUCG sea tunnel and 3 major highways on the island costing RM6.3 billion. The Halcrow Plan, with a projected total cost of RM27 billion, was officially endorsed by the Penang state government in May 2013.
Lacking technical resources, the state government decided to appoint a project delivery partner (PDP) to implement the Halcrow Plan. This was done through a Request for Proposal. The winning bid was submitted by SRS Consortium, whose proposal introduced new elements such as LRT, monorails and highways, departing from the Halcrow Plan in significant ways.
Initially pitched at RM27 billion, the SRS plan quickly ballooned to RM46 billion, a whopping 70% increase in project costs.
Foreword By Right Honourable Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang
The State Government takes issues on road congestion and public transport system in Penang seriously since it was voted into office in 2008. It has embarked on an initiative to conduct a comprehensive study, the Penang Transport Master Plan (TMP) regarding the current state of the transport system and traffic in May 2011.
Penang continues to face major problems – the 3Cs viz. crime, cleanliness and congestion. These problems have compounded due to the influx of investors and tourists to the state. In 2008-2014, Penang recorded an investment of RM48.2 billion compared to only RM24.9 billion in 2001 – 2007. This twofold increase in investment has subsequently contributed to the rise in the number of tourists both local or overseas that choose Penang as a preferred tourist destination.
Fifteen local NGOs have cautioned Penangites not to rush to endorse the state’s mega-billion transport master plan (PTMP), saying more consultation and transparency are needed in the massive deal.
The NGOs, including Aliran and the Penang Heritage Trust, issued a joint statement giving Penangites nine major reasons why “the people of Penang should not be rushed into signing this important agreement”.
They said this while commending and expressing support on the need to prioritise public transport over the present private car-centric transport system.
Critical issues they want the state and its appointed project delivery partner SRS Consortium to address include the tremendous costs involved – currently estimated at RM40 billion.. .
“The most worrying concern is that the PTMP lacks vision, it is touted as a plan for Penang for the next 50 years yet it is trapped in 20th century technology and approach in planning,” the NGOs said.
“It proposes obsolescent solutions to Penang’s transport problems, ignoring the latest developments in mass transit planning around the world.
In 2010, a NASA study declared that automobiles were officially the largest net contributor of climate change pollution in the world. “Cars, buses, and trucks release pollutants and greenhouse gases that promote warming, while emitting few aerosols that counteract it,” the study read. “In contrast, the industrial and power sectors release many of the same gases—with a larger contribution to [warming]—but they also emit sulfates and other aerosols that cause cooling by reflecting light and altering clouds.”
In other words, the power generation sector may have emitted the most greenhouse gases in total. But it also released so many sulfates and cooling aerosols that the net impact was less than the automobile industry, according to NASA.
Since then, developed countries have cut back on those cooling aerosols for the purpose of countering regular air pollution, which has likely increased the net climate pollution of the power generation industry. But according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “collectively, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. emissions,” while “in total, the U.S. transportation sector—which includes cars, trucks, planes, trains, ships, and freight—produces nearly thirty percent of all US global warming emissions … .”
Editor’s note: I would say rather that “the modern motor car is dying”. All you have to do is look hard and the vital signs of decline, ongoing and future, are undeniably there.
About the editor:
Eric Britton 9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France
Bio: Educated as a development economist, Francis Eric Knight-Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent non-profit advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at https://goo.gl/9CJXTh, @ericbritton. @worldstreets and firstname.lastname@example.org
A great wealth of useful information on this troubled and highly divisive PTMP program, coming from a wide variety of sources and reflecting sharply differing views of the sources, reporters and contributors.
Theng argues, first of all, that because the federal Barisan Nasional government refused to build any monorails or LRTs in Penang for the last 10 years, Penangites developed a deep-rooted preference for, and habit of, relying on cars, and that it will take time for them to change. Reasoning that since the LRT (from Komtar to Bayan Lepas) will take seven years to build, and giving one year for people to adapt, he concludes that this will mean another eight years of traffic congestion, and therefore the construction of strategic bypasses (presumably including highways) and public transport is necessary.
Theng’s argument contains assumptions but he is right to pinpoint time as a crucial factor in dealing with our transport problems. He neglects to point out, however, that highways and “strategic bypasses”, not just LRTs, also take a long time to build. The Pan-Island Expressway 1 (PIL1), which is currently under public scrutiny, will also take between five and seven years to build, perhaps even more as the risk of delay is certainly high with 10.1km of its 19.5km under tunnels and much of the rest on viaducts.
About a hundred concerned Penangites gathered peacefully outside the Penang State Assembly this morning to call for an an independent review of SRS Consortium’s outlandish RM46bn transport proposal, which critics have derided as a ‘property play’.
Under the proposal, an RM8bn six-lane highway will eventually link high-end property development on reclaimed land opposite Gurney Plaza off Gurney Drive to more high-end development on three artificial islands in southern Penang Island. Under phase one of the highway, it ends not far from even more high-end property development on reclaimed land now under construction off the coast of southeastern Penang Island.
The multi-ethnic crowd of protesters this morning included concerned residents, academics, environmentalists, park-lovers, advocates of the fishing communities and the marine ecology, representatives of various residents associations and activists.