The Penang state government concedes that our refusal to endorse CAP’s proposal to impose charges on private vehicles entering Penang island has caused some NGOs’ to join BN in opposing the RM6.3 billion traffic dispersal project of 3 highways and under seabed tunnel. This is the price that the Penang PR state government has to pay to ensure freedom of movement, because such a policy of forcing vehicles entering Penang to pay is elitist at best in reserving Penang island only for residents and discriminatory at worst as it bars those who can not afford from entering the island.
CAP President S.M Mohd Idris’s open personal attacks against me in his response to my invitation to him for a dialogue on the proposed 3 highways and under seabed tunnel project is disappointing as he failed to respond factually and objectively. The state government had begun such public consultations since 2011 and his refusal to engage on this issue only emphasizes our point that subjective statements relying on mere sentiments does not contribute towards a civil society that stresses on civil discourse.
I will not indulge in such personal attacks but leave it to the public to judge under the oppressive restraints imposed by the Federal government, whose proposals to overcome traffic congestion in Penang is preferred. I wish to address some solutions to traffic congestion he had suggested which were dealt with by the state government.
On public transport, the state government had tried for the past 5 years to implement an effective and efficient model including suggestions by NGOs. Such efforts did not make any headway due to the intransigence of the Federal government and the refusal to co-operate such as BN’s failure to fulfil their 2006 promise of building a monorail, refusal to allow the state government to purchase our own buses to provide bus services and refusal to accept RM10 million yearly from the state government to provide free bus services throughout Penang during peak hours.
However NGOs like CAP failed to notice that the state government had launched the initiatives such as providing free bus services in George Town as well as across the First Bridge from Seberang Jaya to Bayan Lepas and Balik Pulau. By demanding that the state government provide efficient shuttle service to main bus stops from housing estates ignores, the fact that this should be addressed to the Federal government.
We hope that CAP can address the issue of public transport to the Federal government with the same energetic determination and frequency they do against the state government.
The state government is all for dedicated lanes for buses, bicycles and pedestrians. However such lanes are not possible to be built under existing congested roads unless there are alternative ring roads around the city. These 3 highway projects and the tunnel are being planned to enable existing roads to be converted for dedicated lanes for buses, bicycles and pedestrians in the future.
CAP is wrong to say that the Transport Masterplan (TMP) does not recommend the building of the 3 highways and tunnel. The TMP released yesterday clearly shows that the 3 highways should be completed from 2017 to 2020 and the tunnel completed between 2025-2030. As the tunnel takes at least 12 years to complete due to the importance of fulfilling Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) studies, planning work must begin now.
CAP again distorts the present daily usage of 80, 000 vehicles on the Penang Bridge to mean that with the introduction of Penang 2nd Bridge and the tunnel, the two additional links will increase vehicle usage to 240,000 vehicles. The introduction of new links always reduces the number of vehicles per link and not the other way round. These new links will help to ensure that we do not turn the next generation into a “traffic-jam” generation.
The state government would have made clear this to CAP if S.M Mohamad Idris had been willing to meet us. However we regret his refusal to do so and despite his closed mind, our doors are still open to him should he wish to engage with us.