GEORGE TOWN: They are prone to breakdowns. Maintenance costs a bomb. The iconic Penang ferry will not be seaworthy soon.
These are some of the main reasons for waterbus coming into the picture in the near future.
Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) will take over the ferry services from Prasarana Malaysia Bhd from Jan 1,2021.
Work is already underway to refurbish the current terminal and bring in the waterbus to replace the present Rapid Ferry service within 10 to 12 months.
PPSB chief executive officer Sasedharan Vasudevan said all systems were in place for the takeover and three passenger-only waterbus would ply the waters.
“There was confusion over the waterbus. They will not ferry vehicles. We will have two vehicular ferries, or roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro), for two-wheelers, ” he explained during an exclusive interview in his office yesterday.
Sasedharan said from next year, commuters would have to use the two Penang bridges to cross the channel as the ferry services would cease to operate then.
“As we are not allowed to carry four-wheelers, our priority is pedestrians.
“Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong recently said in Parliament that only 200,000 vehicles used the ferry services, while 1.2 million were pedestrians.
“Our top priority are commuters who use the ferries to get to work daily, ” he said.
Sasedharan said the entire area at the terminal would be given a facelift, including an air-conditioned lobby, for the comfort of passengers.
“The plus point is, we have a readily available Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal as an extra terminal for waterbus and Ro-Ro vessels, which are widely used in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, ” he said.
On the question of why the current ferries were not being phased out in stages, Sasedharan said most of them were more than 40 years old and not really seaworthy.
“The present fleet of ferries are ageing and it’s difficult to find replacement spare parts. That is why we will be using waterbus.
“It’s not only the question of bringing in the waterbus but the entire facet of the terminal will have a new look.
“We also plan to utilise the land bank on both sides by creating more parking space for locals and tourists, ” he said.
There is no increase planned during interim , only after terminal refurbished and introduction of new ferries new rates will be known.
The new rates has it has to be approved by the federal government.
“This move will fit in well with the Penang Transport Master Plan, which includes water taxis and exploring waterways as a viable mode of transport to complement roads and highways for a comprehensive mode of transportation, ” he said.
Early this year, serious concerns were raised as the present fleet of ferries repeatedly caused disruption to commuters.
The Penang ferry service was suspended due to a technical glitch to two of its ferries – Pulau Angsa and Pulau Undan.
Two others – Pulau Talang and Pulau Kapas – had to be grounded as both needed engine overhauls and upgrading work.
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