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Penang Transport Master Plan

A map of the proposed Penang Transport Master Plan, which includes LRT and monorail lines across Penang Island and mainland Seberang Perai, as well as a cable car system and an undersea tunnel linking George Town and the mainland.

The Penang Transport Master Plan is a comprehensive plan formed by the Penang state government to improve transportation within the entire State of Penang[1][2]. The long term plan, which is expected to cost RM27 billion (US$6.65 billion), envisages more alternative transportation modes to combat worsening traffic congestion across the state, such as Light Rail Transit (LRT) and monorail lines, a cable car line and an undersea tunnel linking the capital city, George Town with the town of Butterworth on mainland Malay Peninsula[3].

As of 2016, the Penang state government has been taking early steps to implement of the plan, in spite of opposition from certain quarters including the Malaysian federal government.

A consortium consisting of Penangite and Malaysian companies has been selected as the project delivery partner (PDP) and elected state assemblymen have been holding public briefings to explain the plan to the citizens of Penang[4]. The consortium also intends to seek approval from the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) of the Malaysian federal government for the plan.

Background

Traffic jam at Green Lane, George Town, Penang

Traffic congestion along Green Lane, George Town

As a small compact island city, Penang Island has been in dire need of better transportation. Since the 1980s, the number of cars within the state of Penang has been increasing; Penang Institute statistics in 2015 indicated that there were over one million registered private cars in Penang[5], whereas the population of the entire state was 1.61 milliion by 2012. Traffic congestion has become a daily problem, especially during the morning and evening rush hours along the roads linking George Town and the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone, as well as the Penang Bridge.

In spite of this, the Malaysian federal government has chosen to only develop the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system in the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. Therefore, George Town, and by extension, Penang Island, has lagged behind many other regional cities in terms of public transportation. Although the Rapid Penang bus service was introduced in 2007, the bus service by itself has proved inadequate to solve Penang's traffic woes[6].

To solve the worsening traffic woes and to develop Penang's under-developed transportation infrastructure, the current Penang state government under an alliance of opposition parties, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the People's Justice Party (PKR), mooted the Penang Transport Master Plan in 2013[7][8]. Initial planning involved AJC Planning Consultants Sdn Bhd, Halcrow Consultants Sdn Bhd and the Singapore Cruise Centre.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) was called in 2014 for the selection of the Project Delivery Partner (PDP) for the plan. Only companies which have been operating for at least 15 years and with a minimum yearly turnover of RM3 million were qualified to submit their proposals, so as to ensure that only competent companies were selected.

Plan

Penang Transport Master Plan

Penang Transport Master Plan

Created by PolopinangiteCreated by Polopinangite
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The Penang Transport Master Plan envisages multiple long term transportation solutions, including new transportation modes linking Penang Island and Penang's mainland territory of Seberang Perai.

Undersea Tunnel

An undersea tunnel linking Gurney Drive in George Town with the town of Butterworth in Seberang Perai has been planned as the third link between Penang Island and mainland Malay Peninsula. This more northerly link is expected to further reduce congestion along the Penang Bridge, as it provides a more accessible route from George Town to Butterworth and vice-versa.

After some delays, the project is expected to commence in June 2016, slightly later than its original schedule[9].

Penang Sky Cab

A cable car line which also connects George Town and Butterworth is an interesting addition to Penang's transportation modes[1]. Visitors using the cable car will have an impressive bird's eye view of both Penang Island and Butterworth, separated by the Penang Channel.

The 3km-line across the Penang Channel is expected to cater for about 1,000 passengers per hour in either direction[10]. Each cable car will take about 15 minutes to travel from one end to the other.

As of February 2016, the proposed line has been realigned, as the roads around the planned cable car station at Noordin Street Ghaut in George Town might not be able to cope with the expected increase in traffic[11]. Instead, the line will terminate within the southern suburb of Jelutong. The proposed cable car project has also come under fire for its environmental impact; it is feared that the project will affect the seagrass on the seabed of the Penang Channel.

Bayan Lepas Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line

One of the most anticipated projects in the plan is the introduction of the LRT system on Penang Island. In particular, the Penang state government has prioritised the construction of an LRT line linking George Town and the Penang International Airport to the southeast, known as the Bayan Lepas LRT Line[3][12][13].

The 22km-Bayan Lepas LRT Line will traverse across George Town's southern suburbs of Jelutong and Gelugor, and pass by Universiti Sains Malaysia, the township of Bukit Jambul, the SPICE Arena and the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone before running parralel to the Penang International Airport[14]. The line terminates at Permatang Damar Laut at the southeastern end of Penang Island, just south of the Penang International Airport.

Construction of the Bayan Lepas LRT Line is expected to commence in 2018 and will take six years to complete[15].

Proposed Stations of Bayan Lepas LRT

From George Town city centre :

  • KOMTAR
  • Maccalum Street Ghaut (George Town)
  • Bandar Sri Pinang (Jelutong)
  • Jelutong Sky Cab Terminal
  • East Jelutong
  • The Light (Gelugor)
  • Gelugor
  • Universiti Sains Malaysia (Gelugor)
  • Batu Uban
  • Pesta Sungai Nibong
  • Sungai Nibong
  • Bukit Jambul
  • SPICE Arena
  • Jalan Tengah
  • Free Industrial Zone North
  • Free Industrial Zone South
  • Sungai Tiram
  • Penang International Airport
  • Permatang Damar Laut

Air Itam Monorail Line

The 13km-Air Itam Monorail Line stretches from KOMTAR through the Penang Times Square and the Penang City Stadium to George Town's western suburbs of Air Itam and Paya Terubong[14].

Proposed Stations of Air Itam Monorail

From George Town city centre :

Tanjung Tokong Monorail Line

The 7km-Tanjung Tokong Monorail Line will link KOMTAR with the famous Gurney Drive promenade, before terminating within George Town's northwestern suburb of Tanjung Tokong.

Proposed Stations of Tanjung Tokong Monorail

From George Town city centre :

George Town - Butterworth Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line

The George Town - Butterworth LRT Line is a cross-channel line which is expected to align parallel to the Penang Bridge[14]. The Light LRT Station, which is one of the stops of the Bayan Lepas LRT Line, has also been chosen as the terminus of the George Town - Butterworth LRT Line.

George Town Trams

George Town tram, Penang

In the colonial era, George Town operated a number of tram lines. All were retired by the start of World War 2.

Old tram tracks, George Town, Penang

Old tram tracks can still be seen at the junction between Chulia Street and Penang Road in George Town.

The Penang state government has also proposed the revival of George Town's famous tram system[2]. The trams will complement the existing transportation modes within the George Town city centre, which consist of buses (including the free Rapid Penang CAT buses), trishaws and rental bicycles.

It is also seen as the more suitable option, given the construction restrictions within the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site and that the low profile of the trams blends well with the cityscape. According to the Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng, "reviving this system will make Penang unique and romantic".

The return of the trams in George Town could be realised by 2017[16].

Proposed Stops of the George Town Trams

Current Status

In August 2015, the Penang state government named SRS Consortium Sdn. Bhd., which consists of Gamuda Berhad and two Penangite firms, Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd and Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd, as the Project Delivery Partner (PDP) for the Penang Transport Master Plan[17]. It is understood that the consortium will now attempt to obtain all the necessary approvals from the Malaysian federal government, including from its Land Transport Commission (SPAD).

However, the Malaysian federal government has notably continued its bias against Penang by denying the Penang state government financial allocation in the 2016 Malaysian Budget[18][19]. Although it remains to be seen whether the Malaysian federal government will eventually approve the plan, the Penang state government has stated its intentions to proceed with the plan, notably by collaborating with the private sector and securing financing through a proposed land reclamation to the south of Penang Island.

The proposed reclamation of two man-made islands just south of Penang Island has, in turn, angered fishermen who believed that their sources of income would be affected[20]. Their sentiments were at odds with those of the majority of Penangites, who wanted better transportation on Penang Island[6][7][21]. In response, the Penang state government has declassified land reclamation deals to allow the public transparent access to the land reclamation approvals given by the Penang state government[22]. Free public briefings are also being held across the state to explain to the citizens of Penang about the plan[4].

As of 1 April 2016, the Penang state government has submitted the plan for the Bayan Lepas LRT Line to the Malaysian Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) for approval[23].

Other than that, the RM6.3 billion Penang Undersea Tunnel project is expected to commence in mid-2016, with the tunnel itself to be constructed in 2021[24]. The tunnel project, which was conceived earlier than the Penang Transport Master Plan, had been developed separately and is now under the purview of Consortium Zenith BUCG.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/penang-to-ease-islands-transport-woes
  2. 2.0 2.1 http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2015/08/15/trams-making-comeback-under-rm27bil-penang-plan/
  3. 3.0 3.1 http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1639681
  4. 4.0 4.1 http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2016/01/07/public-briefings-on-penang-transport-master-plan-to-be-held/
  5. http://penanginstitute.org/v3/resources/articles/statistics/709-penang-transportation-by-the-numbers
  6. 6.0 6.1 http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/community/2015/10/30/ending-daily-traffic-nightmare-penangites-are-hoping-a-railbased-transport-system-will-be-the-answer/
  7. 7.0 7.1 http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2016/03/03/positive-views-on-penangs-land-reclamation/
  8. http://www.penang-traveltips.com/penang-integrated-transportation-masterplan.htm
  9. http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2016/01/11/breakfast-briefing-january-11/
  10. https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/295387
  11. http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/01/29/sky-cab-over-seagrass-penang-studying-plan-to-build-cable-car-across-middle-bank/
  12. http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/community/2016/02/29/prioritise-highdensity-areas-for-lrt/
  13. http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2015/04/16/first-lrt-project-in-penang-next-year-komtar-to-airport-line-supported-by-revamped-stage-bus-system/
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 http://paultan.org/2016/03/04/penang-public-transport-plan-revealed-lrt-brt-monorail-and-trams-to-connect-island-to-mainland/
  15. http://www.theedgeproperty.com.my/content/penang-lrt-construction-work-start-2018
  16. http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1501842
  17. http://gamuda.com.my/engineering-construction/penang-transport-master-plan/
  18. http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/nothing-for-penang-again-in-federal-budget-guan-eng-claims
  19. http://www.theedgeproperty.com.my/content/%E2%80%98we-have-been-waiting-federal-government-so-long%E2%80%99
  20. https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/325243
  21. http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2015/12/21/corporates-hope-ptmp-takes-off/
  22. http://www.theedgeproperty.com.my/content/land-reclamation-deals-will-be-made-public-thursday-says-penang-government
  23. http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1746874
  24. http://www.penangpropertytalk.com/2016/01/penang-undersea-tunnel-work-sees-slight-delay/

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