Tourism players in Penang have renewed hope that a cable car service connecting Teluk Bahang and the top of Penang Hill will be implemented, despite Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow stressing that they should wait for a pre- feasibility study on the service.
They want Penang Hill Corporation (PHC) to look again into an almost 10-year-old plan for this connection.
“We can allocate land in our park to build the cable car station,” said Escape theme park founder Sim Choo Kheng.
Calling the project “long overdue”, Sim said Escape was ready to provide a 0.6ha site for the station.
“A cable car line running over the canopy of our rainforest will make Penang a tourism destination on a scale never seen before here,” he said.
PHC has announced a request for proposal from consultants to do a pre-feasibility study on a cable car service for the hilltop.
Sim said a cable car route between Teluk Bahang and Penang Hill would add a new dimension to the Penang experience.
“Tourists staying in Batu Ferringhi and Teluk Bahang can take the cable car to the hill and then take the funicular train down to Ayer Itam and visit Kek Lok Si Temple.”
Sim said his team had studied the option internally and found that the proposed cable car route could be among the most impressive in the world.
“It will be about 7km long and the only one of similar length that I am aware of is in Taiwan.”
Sim said cable cars help people treasure the natural environment, allowing them to enjoy a panoramic view of forests and seas from the gondolas.
“In Bulgaria, a country of only six million, there are four big cable car services that have become global attractions.”
Sim stressed that cable car construction technology was so advanced now that a line can be built with hardly any disturbance to the ground.
“The footprints of the pylons are small. Actually, we want the cable cars to pass over an undisturbed forest because that is what sells.”
Joseph Goh, chief executive officer of Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm in Teluk Bahang, also stressed that cable car services would not damage the forest.
“Anything done must always preserve the biosphere. Plenty of cable car lines have been built without harming the natural environment,” said Goh.
Goh also felt that Teluk Bahang, with the planned North Coastal Paired Road linking it to Tanjung Bungah, would have the infrastructure to handle the flow of visitors to Penang Hill.
Chow recently stressed at a press conference that the state would wait for the feasibility study which might end up showing that the hill would not be able to handle a large flow of visitors coming via cable cars.
He was responding to concerns by local NGOs.
PHC general manager L.L. Cheok also suggested waiting for the pre-feasibility study.
“This cable car idea has been cropping up every few years for decades.”
Meanwhile, Citizens Awareness Chant Group adviser Yan Lee said the state should invite members from Penang Forum, a loose coalition of NGOs, to vet the tenders for the cable car service.
He said some members were qualified professionals and their views should be taken seriously.