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Thursday August 3, 2006

Penang's second bridge and monorail projects given cabinet approval

KUALA LUMPUR: The Cabinet has given the green light for a second Penang bridge as well as a monorail system on the island to be built through Private Finance Initiative under the 9th Malaysia Plan. 

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also said the Government would study the proposal for a bullet train between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. 

He said that for the second Penang bridge, the concession to build, manage, operate and maintain the project would be given to the UEM Group, the concession holder for the present bridge link to the mainland built in 1985. 

“UEM is a company which has extensive expertise and experience in the matter,” said Abdullah, who is also Finance Minister. 

For the Penang monorail project, eligible companies would be invited to submit Requests for Proposal for its implementation, Abdullah said in a statement issued from his office in Putrajaya yesterday. 

As for the proposal for the bullet train submitted recently by YTL Group, he said the Government viewed it positively. 

He said the Government would ask for a socio-economic study to be undertaken to ascertain the project’s impact on the national interest before proceeding with it. 

Through PFI, Abdullah said, the financial risks associated with a project would be borne by the private sector while the Government could use the expertise and efficiency of the private sector to undertake complex infrastructure jobs such as the monorail and bridge projects. 

“The Government will provide support, and facilitate private sector companies which undertake these projects,” he said. 

Abdullah said this showed the Government’s commitment to further streamline the privatisation programme via PFI besides encouraging the private sector to be the catalyst for economic growth. 

When tabling the 9MP in Parliament on March 31, the Prime Minister had announced that Penang would get a second bridge and a monorail system. 

The 24km second bridge, which will connect Batu Kawan in Seberang Prai to Batu Maung on the island, is estimated to cost RM2.8bil. 

UEM is also said to be interested in the Penang monorail project. The company already has proven expertise in the field, having designed and constructed the 29km-long Putra LRT project. 

Analysts say the light monorail transit system will cost about RM1.1bil to build. 

The bullet train project, estimated to cost RM8bil, is expected to cut travelling time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to 90 minutes, making the journey just 40 minutes longer than it would take by air. 

The bullet train, which runs on electricity, will not only benefit Tenaga Nasional and the independent power producers but also boost tourism.  

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