GEORGE TOWN: Residents who are fed up with traffic congestion on the island want the proposed Bayan Lepas Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Pan Island Link (PIL) highway to be implemented as soon as possible to ease the daily gridlock.
Those living in high-density and lower-income areas in Jelutong, Gelugor, Bayan Lepas and Permatang Damar Laut say that the situation has gotten really bad in the last five years, and worse after the Second Penang Bridge was opened last year.
“We have no alternative public transport during morning and evening peak hours, and the buses are irregular. We have no choice but to drive our vehicles, but the roads are so congested between 7am-9am and 4.30pm-7.30pm on weekdays,” said fisherman Azhar bin Yusof, 54.
“We don’t know where and who to channel our frustration. We really want the authorities to look into this,” said Azhar who is on the committee of the Kampung Tepi Laut fishermen’s association in the Permatang Damar Laut area.
He said the residents were hopeful that work could start soon on the LRT and PIL, the first components of the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
Ung Looi Hoon, 44, who operates a stationery shop in the Macallum Street area, said: “I have been living here all my life and have been running my own business here for the last 25 years. The traffic has gone from bad to worse over time.
“If a new public transport plan is introduced, I will of course support it. Knowing that traffic will be worse during construction period, I will still support it because it will only be good for us in the future,” he added.
SRS Consortium which is the Project Delivery Partner of the PTMP, together with the state government, gave a media briefing last Friday on the proposed corridors of the LRT and the PIL highway, and the means for its funding. Comments and feedback from Penangites on the project, especially from the low-income areas, have been supportive.
SRS Consortium project director Szeto Wai Loong said that once the relevant approvals were in place, construction of the proposed 20km Bayan Lepas LRT would be able to kick off in 2018, while work on the 20km PIL highway would begin in 2017.
Both projects will take six years to complete. The Bayan Lepas LRT will form the future rail backbone of Penang’s public transport system.
It will provide an alternative form of public transport for Penangites at key commercial and employment hubs, including George Town, the Sungai Nibong bus terminal, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang International Airport and the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone.
It will also serve the transport needs of high-density low-income areas such as Jelutong, Gelugor and Bayan Lepas.
“The proposed LRT will cater for a targeted ridership of 500,000 out of the 750,000 population of Penang island,” said Szeto.
“It will cater for peak-hour transport demand and help reduce congestion on the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway,” he said, adding that the LRT service would be complemented by a comprehensive feeder bus system at each station to significantly improve connectivity.
With the proposed plan, Penangites will be able to enjoy the convenience of the PIL highway which can reduce journey time from the Second Penang Bridge to Gurney Drive to only 15 minutes, instead of the usual 45 minutes via the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway.
“I hope the authorities will look into our plight of having to face daily congestion which sometimes takes hours from end-to-end. And we have been enduring this situation for years,” said Azhar.