More than just a link

A view of the Merdeka Bridge near a small jetty in Kepala Batas. — Photo: ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

The Merdeka Bridge spanning across the Muda River is more than just another link connecting Penang to Kedah.

Completed in 1955, the bridge was only officially launched in 1957, the same year our country gained its independence from the British, hence, how it got its name.

Besides being considered an infrastructure landmark then, the bridge also oozed plenty of history as it was also the scene of a battle between the British and Japanese Army in 1942 during World War II.

Penang Heritage Trust council member Himanshu Bhatt said that Malaysians should appreciate the Merdeka Bridge as it is our heritage.

“The Merdeka Bridge signifies the rebuilding and blossoming of our country from the embers of colonialism.

“It was constructed after the previous bridge was demolished during the Japanese Occupation.

“It was then officially launched in 1957 to coincide with our independence.

“The authorities should put up an information board at both the entrances to the bridge to tell people about the history of the bridge, ” he said.

In 2008 the bridge was featured in a special commemorative stamp issued by Pos Malaysia.

And in the same year, another span with a similar design was built parallel to the first bridge to cater to the increase in traffic

“The older span is now meant only for traffic heading north-bound, while the newer one accommodates vehicles being driven southward, ” Himanshu said.

Today, apart from a nearby floating restaurant, only a few village houses reside along the river banks and the traffic on the bridge remains low.

A neglected pillbox can be spotted just beside the bridge on the Penang side, but it has been covered with overgrown shrubs.

A village located beside the bridge is also called Kampung Jambatan Merdeka.

Goods deliveryman Mohd Yahya Kassim, 46, said he would use the bridge daily to cut the travelling time between Bumbong Lima in Kepala Batas to Tikam Batu in Sungai Petani.

“If not for the bridge, we would have to cross the mighty Muda River using another bridge in Penaga, which is about five kilometres away, or via the North-South Expressway which requires us to pay toll.

“The Merdeka Bridge is one of the most historic inter-state links in the country, ” he said.

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