Transport masterplan to ease traffic congestion in Penang

PETALING JAYA: The business community in Penang hopes the ambitious RM27bil Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) materialises, stating that it would ease the growing traffic congestion on the island part of the state.

This was a contrast to voices of concern raised by some quarters on the risks of PTMP that would see the development of a light rail transit (LRT) system on the island, the Pan Island Link Highway projects and recently an LRT linking the island to the mainland.

For building the infrastructure, the project promoters would be paid by havings rights to reclaim land which some sections of the people have raised concerns.

PTMP would involve two man-made islands, located near Permatang Damar Laut, spanning 930ha and 445ha- as a source of funding.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Penang chairman Datuk Dr Ooi Eng Hock told StarBiz that they had received overwhelming response from FMM members on the Bayan Lepas light rail transit (LRT) and the Pan Island Link (PIL) Highway in the PTMP as it would reduce their transportation cost.

“We have an estimated 165,000 factory workers who travel to work in Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone (FIZ) daily using vans and buses. This partially contributes to the congestion on Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah and the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway. If at least 70% to 80% of our workers are able to use public transport, we can reduce a significant number of vehicles on the roads,” he said.

On the PIL highway, Ooi said it would be a strategic bypass from the second Penang Bridge to Gurney Drive and would divert regional traffic away from local roads.

“This is important as about 15 out of our 100 FMM Penang members in Bayan Lepas are planning to grow their operations here, given the supply of developable land. Their projected investment will range from RM75mil to RM500mil.

“Our Penang members annual combined turnover that has grown from about RM45bil in 2009 to RM50bil last year,” he said.

PTMP was among major issues publicly opposed by a some members of the public and NGOs that are concernedon the reclamation works given the unsavory experience of mudflats build-up and foul smell along Gurney Drive after the Seri Tanjung Pinang Phase 1 reclamation exercise.

Fishermen in Penang were also against the reclamation project on the island’s southern coast, saying it would affect their livelihood.

As of Dec 17, the state had yet to approve the proposed land reclamation in the south of the island by PTMP project delivery partner, SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd.

Meanwhile, the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) Penang chairman Datuk Jerry Chan felt that the PTMP was an integrated, comprehensive and workable plan.

“I understand the plight of the fishermen and would like to suggest that the PDP and the state government to help them to venture into fish farming instead.

“The reality is nobody wants to reclaim land unnecessarily, but with that amount of cost also for the benefit of the larger public, what other choice does the state have?” he said.

Apart from the PTMP project, Chan felt that the Bayan Lepas airport on the island should be upgraded.

“Penang needs at bigger airport or another airport. The runway now is not long enough to facilitate a fully-laden wide body aircraft such as the 747,” he said.

Inari Amertron Berhad executive director K.C. Lau said that the proposed PTMP would enhance the appeal of Penang as an attractive industrial and business hub.

“It could place Penang a step closer to the likes of mega-cities Singapore and Hong Kong – where public transport takes people from one place to another without hassle even during peak hours,” he said.

Lau said this is because traffic played a highly important role in businesses, especially for a business which has multi-plant operations.

“To meet customers’ demand, we need to constantly improve our logistics, which means shorter cycle time to delivery,” he said.

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