‘Trams only for heritage zone’

  • Nation
  • Friday, 06 May 2016

Vision for the state: (From right) Szeto giving a presentation on the Penang Transport Master Plan at Komtar in Penang. With him are Chow and Lim.

GEORGE TOWN: Trams travelling on the streets statewide are not feasible substitutes for elevated light rail transit trains as they need a dedicated tramway which requires traffic lanes to be sacrificed, according to Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) project delivery partner SRS Consortium.

Its project director Szeto Wai Loong said closing down lanes on roads to create tramways “would severely impact an already congested road system”.

Trams on the street level are proposed only in the heritage enclave and Szeto said this would allow mobility within the zone and serve as a tourist attraction.

“There will be no elevated structures within the Unesco World Heritage Site,” he said in a press conference in Komtar yesterday.

Also present were state Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow and state Works, Utilities and Transportation Committee chairman Lim Hock Seng.

On April 25, 15 Penang NGOs issued a statement expressing their displeasure with the PTMP proposals.

Maintaining that a monorail system would be unsuitable for the Penang landscape because it would be “elevated, unsightly, intrusive and unsafe”, the NGOs called for more street-level tramways to be part of Penang’s future public transport system.

Szeto said building tramways along the streets would bring years of disruption.

“There would be road closures for at least two years to relocate underground utilities. There are so many cables and pipes beneath Penang’s roads that must be removed.

“Then we have to keep the roads closed for six to eight years more to build the tramways.”

On the NGOs’ observation that Penang had a projected population of 1.94 million by 2040 while SRS Consortium had projected a public transport ridership of 2.45 million by 2030, Szeto said traffic growth was higher than population growth as it was driven by economic activities and tourist arrivals, among others.

“As for multiple transit systems, they are common in cities.

“For example, London, Paris and Amsterdam run multiple transit systems in integrated networks,” he said in response to the NGOs’ call for a single seamless line.

The NGOs also claimed they were told by transport experts that monorails were used in theme parks and hardly for public transportation.

Szeto pointed out there were transit and theme park monorails.

“Countries with transit monorails include China, Japan, South Korea, India, Brazil and the United States,” he added.

He stressed that the PTMP was a guide that would be reviewed every five years.

The 15 NGOs included Penang Forum, Penang Heritage Trust, Aliran, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysian Nature Society, Women’s Centre for Change, Ombak Arts Studio, Pesticide Action Network Asia & Pacific and Arts-Ed Penang.

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