The proposed Sky Cab connecting George Town with the town of Butterworth across the Penang Channel is one of the projects under the Penang Transport Master Plan. It is envisioned as one of the eventual five links connecting Penang Island with mainland Malay Peninsula, and perhaps the most eye-catching of all.
In May 2016, Malaysia's Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai announced the rejection of the project, as the proposed pylons were deemed to be blocking shipping routes in the Penang Channel. This politically-motivated move drew backlash from the opposition-led Penang state government, while the current Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng, has indicated his willingness to discuss the rejection.
The Sky Cab is slated to be one of the eventual five links connecting Penang Island and Seberang Perai on mainland Malay Peninsula. Other than the present Penang Bridge and the Second Penang Bridge, the other three links are proposed under the Penang Transport Master Plan - the Penang Undersea Tunnel, the George Town - Butterworth LRT Line and the Sky Cab.
According to the Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng, the Sky Cab is necessary for Penangites living within the northern half of both Penang Island and Seberang Perai.
"At the island's southern side, we have the second bridge, followed by the first bridge, but we only have the ferry service to connect both mainland and island at the northern side of the island. We feel that one more form of travel will decrease the dependence on automobiles."In addition, the 4.8 kilometre-long Sky Cab, which is to consist of cable cars travelling 90 metres above the Penang Channel, is expected to add tourism value to the Penang Sentral transportation hub in Butterworth, as well as providing tourists and locals alike a panoramic view of both George Town and Butterworth.
The Sky Cab service will consist of 40 gondolas; each gondola has a capacity of 1,000. A cross-strait trip could take up to 15 minutes. Four pylon towers, each as tall as the KOMTAR Tower and separated apart from one another by 1 kilometre, will be erected to link the cables.
Initially, Noordin Street Ghaut in the heart of George Town was selected as the Penang Island terminus of the cable car system. However, it was foreseen that the narrow streets of George Town might not be able to cope with the sudden swell in traffic. Therefore, the island terminus has been shifted to the Jelutong landfill within the southern suburb of George Town. The landfill has been slated for rehabilitation, enabling its future use.
Penang Sentral in Butterworth is the main transportation hub for the State of Penang. It comprises the Butterworth Railway Station, the Penang Ferry Service terminal and express bus stops. As of April 2016, it is still under construction.
*All prices are quoted in Malaysian Ringgit (RM).
The Sky Cab project was initially not listed in the Penang Transport Master Plan. Therefore, the estimated overall costs, including its design and construction materials, have not been ascertained yet; the expected price tag could range between RM500 million and RM700 million.
Construction is slated to begin in early 2018 and will be completed by late 2019.
The ticket fares for the Sky Cab service have also been tentatively set.
- Local commuters : RM2.50
- Malaysian tourists : RM15
- Foreigners : RM35
These fares are to increase by 20% every five years.
The estimated ridership is expected to grow by 5% annually in the first five years, with the passenger mix comprising 34% Malaysian tourists, 26% foreign tourists and 40% Penangite commuters. This will result in 60% fare revenue contribution from foreign tourists, 33% from Malaysian tourists and the remaining 7% from Penangites.
There has also been environmental concerns, as the route will cut across the Middle Bank, an undersea bank of seagrass and fish breeding grounds. Certain quarters have expressed concerns over the construction of pylon towers around the Middle Bank, which would potentially kick up sediments, affect marine life within the vicinity and permanently wash away the Middle Bank.
An environmental impact assessment (EIA) has also been planned for the project, while Mr. Lim has given assurances that the engineers involved were working to avoid seagrass where there are dense marine life present. He added that the pylon towers will leave very small footprints on the environment.
In May 2016, a politically-motivated move saw the Malaysian Transport Minister, Liow Tiong Lai, announcing the federal government's rejection of the project, stating that the proposed pylons would potentially block shipping lanes along the Penang Channel and affect the operations of the Port of Penang. Mr. Lim rebutted the "arrogant" reasons given by the Malaysian Transport Minister by demonstrating a 3D simulation of the cable car project, whilst stating his willingness to meet Mr. Liow to discuss the rejection. In addition, Mr. Lim also warned Mr. Liow not to "act like a colonialist" or dictate Penang's decisions when the latter sets foot on Penang.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/penang-to-ease-islands-transport-woes
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/01/29/sky-cab-over-seagrass-penang-studying-plan-to-build-cable-car-across-middle-bank/
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 http://www.penangpropertytalk.com/2016/04/mrcbs-penang-sky-cab-to-begin-construction-in-1q2018/
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 http://www.penangpropertytalk.com/2016/04/penang-skycab/
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/06/02/keeping-the-line-open-on-sky-cab-ppc-cites-safety-for-project-rejection-while-cm-seeks-meeting-with/
- ↑ https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/343601
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/v8/ge/newsgeneral.php?id=1251188
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 http://www.malaysiandigest.com/frontpage/29-4-tile/614634-the-ship-captain-s-licence-is-kopi-o-kaw-kaw-punya-lesen-guan-eng-thrashes-transport-minister-over-penang-sky-cab-rejection.html
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 http://www.malaysiandigest.com/news/614024-penang-sky-cab-lim-guan-eng-surprised-proposal-rejected.html
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 http://www.penang-traveltips.com/penang-sky-cab.htm
- ↑ https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/343601