THE Penang Forum steering committee, a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups, has called on the Pakatan Harapan Penang government to review the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) estimated to cost RM46bil.
It said the Penang government should bear in mind its election manifesto of balancing economic growth with environmental protection and a commitment to improve public transport.
“Given the scale of the funding for this mega project, the state must ensure government procurement produces the best value for taxpayers’ money.
“The awarding process used was based on a Request for Proposal, rather than a true open tender, which did not allow for any meaningful comparison of bid documents as the scope of work was not fixed.
“Hence the award process must also be reviewed and revisited,” the statement read.
The committee also pointed out that the present PTMP was based on the assumption that buses, ferries and a cross-channel bridge were under federal control and there was nothing much the state could do.
“So it did not focus on how these could be improved or expanded. But now that circumstances have changed, the plan needs to be revised,” it said.
The committee also said the planning for equitable public transport should take into consideration the following criteria:
Fiscal prudence that should consider cost-effectiveness in construction, operation and maintenance.Detailed financial analysis of different public transport systems must be done and compared. The most cost-effective system should be selected.
Other important considerations are efficiency of operation, predictable schedules and systems compatibility.
The different components of the transport system must be well connected and integrated, socially inclusive, with a low impact on the built and natural environment.
Extensive public consultation at every stage, with plans available for online viewing and download so that more people can view and comment. It must be carried out and the exercise must be open to scrutiny.
Independent consultants who are at the forefront of designing equitable, sustainable transport must be engaged to do the review of the plans. They must not be associated with or employed by parties involved in tendering for the project.
The statement also read that the 2016 transport proposal was a mega project put forward by SRS Consortium, the project delivery partner of PTMP, to the Penang government.
“The design and planning fails to meet most of the above criteria.
“The overpriced package includes many components of mega road building that will discourage people from using public transport and undermine the stated goal of increasing public modal share of transport.
“Although public consultations have been held about impacts in specific localities, open scrutiny of the whole design was strongly discouraged,” the statement said.
The committee also said the original PTMP by Halcrow involved public consultation, but the state pressured the consultants to add the undersea tunnel and three highways costing a total of RM6.3bil just before it adopted the plan in 2013.
The SRS proposal costing RM46bil includes a proposal to reclaim 4,500 acres of land (comprising three islands). It departs drastically from the officially adopted 2013 Halcrow masterplan.
“Thus, a thorough, proper and independent review should be carried out to ascertain its suitability, viability and sustainability.
“The massive proposed reclamation will destroy fishing grounds and jeopardise fishing livelihoods and a vital local source of seafood.
“It will be environmentally unsustainable due to expensive maintenance costs required for dredging in the future.
“Promise 10 of the Pakatan manifesto talks of ensuring food security and protecting the welfare of farmers and fishermen.
“Last but not the least, with rapid changes in public transport technology and new trends in info-mobility, it is imperative that any existing plan for public transport should be re-examined.
“A new public transport design has to be integrated to encourage walking, cycling and bus use,” it said.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow was earlier reported saying that the state government would leave the decision to review the components of the PTMP to the Federal Government.
He said this was because the proposal was at the Federal level right now, adding that if there was any need to review the project, the Federal Government could make a decision.
He also said the SRS Consortium would be happy to supply the Federal agencies with additional details.