PTMP crucial for Penang’s future, says chief minister

Looi Sue-Chern

THE Penang government today reiterated how the criticised Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) is crucial for the growth of the northern state, which has been facing worsening traffic problems for years.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the PTMP – with its proposed elevated light rail transit (LRT), highways. and Penang South Reclamation (PSR) – will change the direction of the state as the main driver of economic sectors.

While the PSR will finance the PTMP and provide more land for future development with three man-made islands south of the main Penang island; the master plan, Chow said, will create new jobs and high-skilled labour, and improve the quality of life for residents.

“Time has brought many changes to Penang. It is no longer the village settlement it was at the end of the 18th century.  

“Today, we are a Unesco heritage city, electrical and electronics hub, street food capital, health tourism destination, and the 10th best destination to visit in the world.

“But some do not realise that the rapid growth in the last few decades has impacted the state. The most obvious impact is the traffic congestion,” he said in his speech at a public forum on the PTMP at Dewan Sri Pinang this afternoon.

Chow, who is also the state exco in charge of transport, said the growth in Penang that followed its industrialisation and increase in population also led to a lack of land for future development.

“The impact of this growth also led to an increase in property prices, brain drain, and loss of foreign direct investment.

“Terrible traffic jams during peak hours cause discomfort, decrease productivity, and affects Penang’s appeal as a competitive destination for investment and a manufacturing hub.

“Understanding the impact of these challenges to Penang’s sustainability and liveability, the state leadership has prioritised developing transport infrastructure and reducing traffic jams since we took over in 2008,” he said.

The PTMP was a result of the Halcrow Report commissioned by the state government to come up with a conceptual study and strategies to solve Penang’s worsening traffic problem.

In 2014, the state held a request for proposal to appoint a project delivery partner to implement the PTMP.

SRS Consortium, headed by Gamuda Bhd, one of Malaysia’s biggest infrastructure companies, was chosen to undertake the ambitious job.

However, Penang civil society and some residents have criticised the PTMP, which they say focuses too much on building new roads, instead of improving and introducing public transport.

They have also been raising concerns about the cost of the components and the environmental impact of the proposed highways.

They have been calling on the state to scrap certain components of the PTMP, especially the LRT from George Town to Bayan Lepas and the Pan Island Link 1 highway, and to review the PTMP.

Penang Forum representative Lim Mah Hui, who addressed the forum, also said that building more roads will eventually increase the number of cars, instead of solving the traffic problem.

“It is scientifically proven that building more roads does not solve traffic jams,” he said, citing cases in some United States’ cities and other places in the world.

He said if Penang built all the highway projects under the PTMP, the state would have 159m of road per 1,000 residents, compared to 30m per 1,000 persons in Singapore.

Over 800 people attended the forum today. – September 30, 2018.

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