GEORGE TOWN, March 12 - The Pakatan Rakyat-led Penang state government is willing to lose votes over the RM6.3 billion mega infrastructure project that had attracted criticisms from non-governmental organisations (NGO).
Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng is adamant that the project, consisting of an undersea tunnel connecting the island to the mainland and three highways, be implemented despite criticisms and protests by NGOs and Penang Barisan Nasional.
“We are willing to lose votes and support by implementing this project because we do not want to be a “do nothing” government,” he said in a press conference at his office today.
He said the state government had exhausted all means to implement an effective public transportation system in the state, but were unable to do so as public transport is under the purview of the federal government.
“We have proposed for the councils to buy its own fleet of buses to provide public transport but we are unable to get the approval and relevant permits from the federal government so we could not do it,” he said.
The state government had also previously proposed to pay RM10 million to RapidPenang for the company to provide free public transport during peak hours but the proposal was not officially approved as RapidPenang is under the purview of the Finance Ministry.
“Since we can’t do anything about the public transport, we can’t just sit back and do nothing, that’s why we have to implement this project to disperse traffic,” the DAP secretary-general said.
The project, which was first announced in 2011 when the tender was called, consists of a 6.5 km underwater tunnel connecting Gurney Drive to Bagan Ajam, a 12km dual carriageway between Tanjung Bungah and Teluk Bahang, a 4.2km bypass connecting Gurney Drive to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway and a 4.6km bypass connecting the same expressway to Bandar Baru Air Itam.
The state government had awarded the tender to Consortium Zenith BUCG, a special purpose vehicle company set p by a joint venture between local company Construction Zenith, China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd (CRCC) along with Beijing Urban Construction Group, Sri Tinggi Sdn Bhd and Juteras Sdn Bhd.
The NGOs, particularly Penang Forum, had opposed the project saying that it could cause more traffic to come to the island and create even more congestion.
They were also concerned over the environmental impact of the project.
Penang BN had said the undersea tunnel was an outdated proposal under the former state administration that was shelved when it became unviable.
Penang BN had also demanded to know why the tunnel was not mentioned in the state government’s Penang Master Transport Plan (PMTP) and yet it will be implemented.
To this, Lim refuted their claims by showing the PMTP report that had clearly included the tunnel which is slated to be built between 2025 and 2030.
“We feel this tunnel and the highways are the only approach to resolving the traffic issues in the state now,” he said.
Lim said the project may be amended if PR managed to win over Putrajaya as by then there will be decentralisation of certain systems including public transportation.
“If we take over Putrajaya, we will implement the tram system for an effective public transportation system in the state,” said Lim.
Last Sunday, the state government held a public dialogue session on the project which was attended by over 300 people.
Only 24 people went up to ask questions during the dialogue session and out of that, one had objected to the project while nine supported it.
The rest had merely asked for more clarification on the project.
The state government will be holding another dialogue session next Tuesday but this time it will be a Chinese session where it will be conducted fully in Mandarin.
All Chinese associations will be invited to attend the session which will be held at 8pm at the Penang Chinese Town Hall.