Op-Ed: Revisit the Penang transport masterplan

Open appeal to the new Penang chief minister

Dear Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow,

Let me at the outset state that I have the utmost respect for you and I thank you for welcoming open discourse on the Penang transport masterplan. As a Penangite and a supporter of yours, this is my open appeal to you to pause and rethink the plan as follows;

The relevant Penang Island and Seberang Perai structure and local plans (2020-2030) need to be reviewed before committing to transport investments that will have an irreversible, long-term impact beyond 2050.

Penang needs a long-term vision that is articulated into spatial plans and specific land use initiatives that are integrated with transport and other infrastructure investments.

Equally important are a robust institutional framework, regulatory and planning tools, governance arrangements and civil service talent for effective implementation of these plans.

Penang sorely lacks these currently as can be seen by the increasing congestion, flooding, environmental degradation, unsustainable urban sprawl, haphazard development and inequitable property prices.

The structure plans and local plans are crucial in integrating transit-oriented development and land-use planning and urbanisation. In this regard, the proposed three reclaimed islands with smart cities occupying an estimated area of 4,500 acres should be incorporated into the structure and local plan process.

With the overwhelming mandate that the Penang voters have given you, please use this opportunity to institute an inclusive planning process that reflects the aspirations of Penangites of all backgrounds for a sustainable, socially inclusive, desirable future for Penang.

An independent expert panel can help review the road investment proposals based on the principles of transit-oriented development.

The efficacy of the Penang transport masterplan is only as good as the quality of forecasts on population growth and residential density, land use patterns and development density arising from economic activity, trips generated, modal split and travel patterns based on predicted travel behaviour.

Current transport planning models are increasingly sophisticated using big data analytics leveraging data from mobile devices and social media, artificial intelligence applications and behavioural economics approaches. The Halcrow study does not benefit from any of these innovative techniques.

The recommendation to invest in more road capacity through the three new highways, the undersea tunnel and the three new bypasses will generate more induced traffic and undermine the vision of transit-oriented development for Penang.

Transit is a means to help create desirable patterns of urban growth and reduce the carbon footprint while enhancing the convenience, comfort and safety of users. Ttransit systems thus need to be harmonised with land use patterns in sustainable ways.

I urge you to establish an expert panel to reconsider the proposed highway investments. Using the internal rate of return (IRR) as the only criteria for prioritisation of investments is a flawed approach.

The procurement approach adopted to date has not delivered the world-class planning expertise which is required for a sustainable Penang transport masterplan.

I know of no other public entity in the world that has used the Request for Proposal procurement method to select a project delivery partner for an estimated RM46bn (US$11.5bn at current exchange rates) investment of the scope and ambition of the SRS proposal, which has significant, complex and multi-generational impacts.

Penang Forum calls for greater dialogue on pressing issues

Firstly, a project delivery partner is used only for relatively small (in comparison), well specified projects with very clear deliverables and timelines when the public contracting authority does not have the technical/financial capacity to implement these projects.

In the case of the Penang transport masterplan, the Request for Proposal objectives are exceedingly broad, vague and complex. As such, costs and risks are near impossible to estimate for any reputable bidder. Therefore, a fair and robust comparison of technical and financial proposals amongst different bidders is certainly impossible (with all due respect to KPMG).

Furthermore, there is confusion between the roles of the state government and the project delivery partner in terms of accountability for planning functions and, under the current arrangement, a near abdication of the roles and responsibilities of the state government – which is clearly undesirable.

The state government needs to focus on establishing consensus on critical and urgent steps to formulate, implement, manage, monitor and enforce integrated land use and transport plans especially with the recent dissolution of the Land Public Transport Commission (Spad).

Given the scale and ambition of the proposed investments, a new state transport unit needs to be established with the required expertise, resources and mandate to ensure that the public good is not compromised by the profit incentive of a private project delivery partner.

SRS Consortium has no demonstrated experience or expertise in delivering an ambitious integrated transport masterplan.

Again, with due respect to the state government and KPMG, the capabilities of SRS Consortium, which consists of Gamuda Bhd, Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd and Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd, as a project delivery partner are not evident.

Penang Forum calls for greater dialogue on pressing issues

None of the consortium members have demonstrated experience or expertise in implementing an integrated transport plan on a scale such as the Penang transport masterplan as they are either engineering or property companies experienced in delivering infrastructure projects or developing real estate.

They clearly do not have the requisite world-class expertise in implementing sustainable, integrated transit and land-use plans. Entrusting the future vision of Penang and the quality of life of our children and grandchildren to an untested consortium such as SRS seems like a recipe for disaster.

I would urge you to review the contracting arrangement with SRS Consortium and instead formulate a plan to establish a state transport unit with expertise in managing public-private partnership (PPP) projects such as the transport masterplan proposals.

Along the same lines, I would also urge that you to revisit the arrangements with Consortium Zenith.

Yours respectfully,


# # #

About the author:

  * Concerned International Banker is the pseudonym of an individual attached to an international financial institution.

# # #

About the editor:

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, mediator and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | http://bit.ly/2Ti8LsX | #fekbritton | https://twitter.com/ericbritton | and | https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericbritton/ Contact: climate@newmobility.org) | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

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2 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Revisit the Penang transport masterplan

  1. The initial cost of Penang Transport Master Plan projects was RM27 billion, then it suddenly skyrocketed to RM46 billion, now it was reported to be RM33 billion.

    The project is to be paid with 3 man made Island at Pematang Laut Damar.

    The total areas of three man made islands would be about 4100 acres.

    If the state government sells the 4100 acres of reclaimed land at RM500 per square feet, the total price would be RM 89,298,000,000.

    If the project cost only RM27 billion, the state government is selling the reclaimed land at RM151 per square feet.
    If the project cost only RM33 billion, the state government is selling the reclaimed land at RM185 per square feet.
    If the project cost only RM46 billion, the state government is selling the reclaimed land at RM258 per square feet.

    With the completion of RM17 billion Pan Island Link, the price of the reclaimed land is expected to shoot up to RM1000 per square feet. Why are we paying for PTMP at an exorbitant price of RM178,596,000,000?

    Don’t forget that the project is awarded without open tender to a consortium lead by Gamuda, the crony of Najib Razak. It also involving CCCC which will facilitate the flow of money to Hong Kong where the corrupted can split the money among themselves.

    How much is Lim Guan Eng intends to steal from us?

  2. Dear Netizens of Malaysia,
    The time has come for us to rise against the forces of evil. We were told to vote for changes. We were told to vote for the lesser evil. Today the lesser evil has grown to be a monster beyond our control. Lim Guan Eng basically treated Malaysians as a fool and openly schemes to steal billions from us via public infrastructure projects.
    For the past few years I have waited patiently for him to commit the greatest crimes in Malaysia. The time is now running out for us to get rid of him. We need to stand up against Lim Guan Eng and gangs. We need to stop them from stealing billions from us.
    I urge you to lodge a report with the MACC and the police over his grand scheme of stealing billions from us.

    We need to pressure the MACC to take appropriate actions against those who steal billions from us.

    We need to force Lim Guan Eng to take leave pending his corruption trial over the cheap bungalow fiasco. We need to prevent him from continuing his scheme of stealing billions from us.

    Below is the upgraded version of my article that you can use to lodge a report against Lim Guan Eng.

    The Grand Scheme of Stealing Billions by Penang Chief Minister

    Dear Sirs,

    Under the South Reclamation Scheme, Lim Guan Eng administration is supposed to pay RM19 billion for the three man made islands located near Permatang Damar Laut spanning 930ha , 445ha and 323ha.
    The total reclaimed areas is 1698 ha or 182,962,318 sqf.
    This means that Lim Guan Eng administration is supposed to pay RM104 psf for the reclamation.

    When Lim Guan Eng initially coined the land swap deal idea he was referring to Koh. Tzu Koon’s reclamation deal with IJM. Lim Guan Eng, after finalized the cost of Penang Transport Master Plan project at RM27 billion, decided to add a twist to the plan by paying RM104 psf for the reclamation instead of selling the rights of reclamation at RM1 psf.

    If Lim Guan Eng sell the rights of reclamation RM1 psf like Koh Tzu Koon administration, the state government will receive a total RM183 million in cash.

    The 1698 ha of lands is the payment for RM46 billion. For the RM27 billion payment for Penang Transport Master Plan project the land required is 970ha.

    If the deal is done as per the practice of Koh Tzu Koon administration, the state government is supposed to receive RM183 million for selling the rights of reclamation and additional 727 ha of land.

    Even if you want to pay for reclamation without selling the rights of reclamation, the average sea reclamation cost is about RM30 psf in Johor. The cost of reclamation for 1698 ha should be RM 5,483,136,000 . Lim Guan Eng is allowing the vendor to charge an exorbitant cost of RM19 billion in order to squander more than RM13.5 billion.
    According to my sources in Singapore, the cost of reclamation is never an issue. The cost is only S$0.8 psf or RM2.50 psf.
    If using this cost the reclamation of 1698ha will only cost RM 456,928,000 which is less than RM0.5 billion. Therefore when I make the accusation that Lim Guan Eng is taking the opportunity to steal RM19 billion it is a qualified statement that is not tantamount to defamation. That’s the rationale behind the decision of Koh Tzu Koon to sell the rights of reclamation at RM1 psf. When Lim Guan Eng ridiculed Koh Tzu Koon by twisting the fact of selling rights of reclamation to become selling lands he did it with malicious intent and hidden agenda.

    To finance this grand scheme of stealing RM 183 million and 727ha of lands from Penangites, Lim Guan Eng is planning to take a loan of RM2.3 billion from China Exim Bank.

    The bridging loan of RM2.3 billion will be more than sufficient to fund the reclamation project. We need to put Lim Guan Eng into jail for his attempt to steal billions from us.

    This saga is the continuation of the Penang Roads and Tunnels project scandal where Lim Guan Eng administration purposely allowed a RM2 company to overcharging Penangites RM2 billion.

    In 2011 at Rasa Sayang Lim Guan Eng announced to a group of audiences about the state government’s efforts in upgrading the state infrastructures involving a RM4 billion Roads and Tunnels project.

    The state government subsequently awarded the said project to Zenith Bucg at a cost of RM6.3 billion. The difference in cost of more than RM2 billion led to the criticism by the state’s opposition, Gerakan. Lim Guan Eng conveniently attributed it as typo error .

    In Dec 27 2013 China Reuters reported that China Railway Construction Corporation announced to the China stock exchange that it’s subsidiary in Malaysia has obtained a US$1.19 billion Roads and Tunnels project in Penang.
    Earlier the company website reported the subsidiary also secured the $22 million details design job for Penang Roads and Tunnels project.

    The exchange rate for ringgit per dollar between 2011 and 2013 was about 3.18. If using the exchange rate of 3.4 then the US$1.19 billion is approximately equivalent to RM4 billion.

    It can’t be a coincidence that the cost of the project announced by Lim Guan Eng is approximately equivalent to cost announced by China Railway Construction Corporation.

    It is clear that Lim Guan Eng adminstration had intentionally allowed Consortium Zenith Bucg (CZBUCG) to secure the project at RM6.3 billion and thus allowed CZBUCG to earn RM2 billion without much efforts.

    In Canada the government spending $700,000 for feasibility study people complained.

    In Penang spending RM180million for feasibility studies is not considered as exorbitant.

    It was reported in the past that the RM305mil will fund the feasibility study at RM183 million, detailed design for RM92 million, and environmental assessment for RM33 million.

    How come now the cost of the studies is RM31million for the three paired roads and RM20 million for the tunnel?

    Feasibility and EIA studies not yet completed, how can detailed design work start?

    Why paid for incompleted jobs?

    The feasibility studies and detailed design should cost only RM 5 million instead of RM305 million.

    In his efforts to mislead Penangites in particular and Malaysians in general, Lim Guan Eng was laughing at Koh Tzu Koon for selling the rights of reclamation at RM1 when he actually plans to pay RM104 psf for the reclamation.

    This is a grand scheme of stealing RM2.3 billion loan , RM 183 million in cash, RM2 billion in exorbitant charges, RM300 million exorbitant charges( from feasibility studies and detailed design ) and 727ha of lands from Penangites.

    In ringgit term Lim Guan Eng is plotting to steal RM2.3 billion loan , RM 183 million in cash, RM2 billion in exorbitant charges, RM300 million exorbitant charges( from feasibility studies and detailed design ) and RM19 billion ( equivalent to 727ha of lands) from Penangites.

    The black eye that I received in August 17, 2014 was a deterrent to prevent me from stopping this grand scheme of stealing RM2.3 billion loan , RM 183 million in cash, RM2 billion in exorbitant charges, RM300 million exorbitant charges( from feasibility studies and detailed design ) and RM19 billion ( equivalent to 727ha of lands) from Penangites.

    This is probably the most expensive black eye ever recorded in modern human history.

    I wonder just how long the MACC wants to ignore my reporrts over the stealing of state’s assets and money by Lim Guan Eng.

    Ong Eu Soon


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