LRT, monorail will lead Penang to financial hardship

 |Aug 11, 2016
Penang Gerakan vice chairman Oh Tong Keong.
Penang Gerakan vice chairman Oh Tong Keong.

Light Rail Transit (LRT) and monorail systems, if constructed in Penang, would lead the state government into higher financial risks and jeopardise the state’s coffer.

Penang Gerakan vice-chairman Oh Tong Keong said the state annual budget could face deficit of hundreds of millions of ringgit if it was to include the annual operating costs of monorail, LRT, tram, bus systems and expressways.

He said the total income in the 2016 state budget was only RM700 million.

Based on passenger volume of the Kuala Lumpur LRT system, he said the proposed Komtar – Penang Airport LRT line under the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) alone may cost up to RM135 million, or 20% of the state’s total income.

Even if Penang could increase its income to RM1.4 billion by year 2023, he said the Komtar – Penang Airport LRT line could cost up to RM126 million, or 10% of the state’s budget.

“That has yet to include other public transport systems. Can the state government afford it?

“Why can’t state government adopt a cheaper, more environmentally-friendly transport system?” asked Oh.

Trams in Bremen, Germany. Trams can provide a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly public transport system if introduced in Penang.
Trams in Bremen, Germany. Trams can provide a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly public transport system if introduced in Penang.

He said Gerakan backed the coalition of civil society groups, Penang Forum’s proposed alternative plan for transportation as it would be accessible for every level of users, including disabled persons.

He said Penang Forum’s proposed system had lesser carbon emissions, more environmentally friendly, lesser vibration, less noise, more flexible and easier for future expansion or upgrading of transport networks.

“I studied both the plan of Penang Forum as well as the plan of the state government which has been uploaded on its official website. I find the alternative plan by Penang Forum better and more appealing!

“Gerakan’s stand is very clear. We support the alternative PTMP by Penang Forum,” said Oh.

Penang Forum unveiled an alternative PTMP with the theme “better, cheaper, faster” transportation last month.

Oh pointed out that a modern tram and an efficient bus system, as proposed by Penang Forum, would require less than half the cost of LRT as proposed by PTMP.

It can save up to RM16 billion and avoid future spending.

A efficient, reliable and affordable bus service is was Penang needs, not mega LRT project.
A efficient, reliable and affordable bus service is was Penang needs, not mega LRT project.

Tram and bus system can also be built twice as fast compared to LRT as well as shortening the time for project construction, which will affect the people’s daily lives.

Oh said Penangites cannot understand why the state government does not want to adopt the cheaper, faster, safer, more convenient, more environmentally friendly tram.

Instead, he said the state government wanted to go for the more expensive, less convenient, less environmentally friendly LRT and monorail proposed by SRS Consortium.

“Is it really better when it is more expensive?” asked Oh.

“The state government must carefully study the alternate PTMP by Penang Forum.

“It will be best if the recommendations are adopted as a more pragmatic public transport system for the people of Penang.”

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Athi Shankar has been a journalist for past 30 years. He believes that democratic rights come with responsibility.