Gerakan: Go back to the drawing board on Penang Transport Masterplan

GEORGE TOWN: Penang needs to go back to the drawing board when it comes to the proposed RM30 billion Penang Transport Masterplan, said a Gerakan leader.

Wong Mun Hoe, who oversees the state Gerakan election task force, said that the Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng needs to realise that there is mounting opposition to the plan even though the state may have meant well in the first place.

Compromising is part and parcel of politics; the state should not bulldoze through the proposed infrastructure when certain strata of society here does not agree.

“Perhaps in the past, the critics were silent because they wanted to give Lim and his compatriots the benefit of doubt in administering Penang. But now, when they see that the state has gone off tangent, they want to rectify it,” Wong said.

He added that Lim should listen more to the dissenting voices, as Penang is no DAP, it is a state populated by highly critical folks.

It is the only state in the country to boot out all of its sitting chief ministers, Wong reminded Lim.

Wong said that a revision of the masterplan should be done to tailor it to the present economic dynamics where affordability and efficiency are essential.

Wong was responding to the statement by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who during his last weekend visit to Balik Pulau, voiced out his displeasure over the proposed reclamation, saying if it burdens the people, it should be scrapped.

Najib was quoted as saying that the federal government cannot support the mega reclamation project if it affects the livelihood of the fishermen and if it is proven to be an unsustainable venture.

The reclamation of 1,800ha of sand off Permatang Damar Laut in Bayan Lepas was supposed to foot the bill for components of the masterplan such as a light rail transit, mass rail transit, a tram in George Town and upgrading works of roads.

While sitting on the new land would be factories, housing, new commercial enterprises and a spot for the expansion of the Penang International Airport.

To this, Wong urged Lim to go back to the basics instead of mooting grandeur projects, which need some 50 years to complete.

“By then, we do not know what will happen to Penang. We need to address short to intermediate – term issues. Not look too far ahead! The world is now coming to terms with the dwindling economies of the west. Adjustments need to be made.”

Wong said the funny thing is that there existed a cost effective model – the Halcrow model which was commissioned by the state.

Civil society under Penang Forum has adopted the Halcrow model as part of their alternative to the state’s masterplan.

The Halcrow study predominantly called for a tram in George Town and a feeder public bus line, and importantly, it does not include mass reclamation, Wong said.

Wong stressed that the issue over the masterplan was more of cost and the environment rather than politics.

But state Health, Agriculture, Rural Development and Agro-based Industries committee chairperson Dr Afif Bahardin retorted that it is a straight on political topic, as other states were allowed to commence with their reclamation.

In states with an acute land shortage, reclamation was mooted in Kedah, Malacca and Johor, all were approved but why Penang was singled out here, he said.

“We were singled out as the best by the Department of Environment in terms of submitting our reports and we hope that our application would be determined on merit rather than on political benefits. Penang has been punished because the people want a better form of governance.”

There needs to be fairness when it comes to addressing the masterplan, he said.






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