7 Reasons Why Ptmp Is Wrong

There are many reasons why Penang should switch to reverse gear where the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) is concerned. The following are seven cogent reasons:The Halcrow Plan was adopted by the Penang government as the state’s Transport Master Plan in 2013 but was displaced
The present PTMP is a gross deviation from the Halcrow Plan
Here’s a little background on the Halcrow plan. As civil societies in Penang had in 2009 pushed for a transport master plan, Halcrow, the British transport consultants, were appointed in 2011
After almost two years of field research, extensive interviews and detailed study, the Halcrow folks were paid RM3.2 million
The key difference is: Halcrow focused on public transport, PTMP focused on highways
The PTMP we know today came to shape through a request for proposal (RFP), not an open tender. Those winning the projects are project delivery partners (PDP), where the state government ultimately owns the project, with those who win the RFP becoming PDPs
The bid from SRS Consortium, consisting of Gamuda Berhad (60%), Ideal Properties (20%) and Loh Poh Yen Holdings (20%), was accepted in August 2015
Their proposal was radical and radically deviated from what the Halcrow folks came up with
The PTMP, as we know it now, includes the undersea tunnel and the three paired roads, to be separately delivered by Consortium Zenith Consortium Sdn Bhd (Zenith)PTMP is way too expensiveBased on current quotations for the LRT (close to RM10 billion) and Pan Island Link or PIL (RM9.6 billion), PTMP appears to have ballooned past the initial estimate of RM46 billion and will likely increase further
This is in contrast to the Halcrow Plan which, even after including new transport methods, would cost RM10 billion, covering the entire state with proper public transport
This RM10 billion is just about 20% of the PTMP
The key contention with the PTMP is its flawed funding model. Three islands measuring 4,500 acres will be created and later sold to the highest bidder
If, say, 3,000 acres were to be successfully sold some years from now, the mean price would have to be RM500 per sq ft in order to garner about RM65 billion
RM65 billion includes the cost of the PTMP and the cost to reclaim the islands
This will be impossible to attain, considering all factors
PTMP will devastate the environmentIn the PTMP, a highway called the Pan Island Link 1 highway appears to be a risky project. The 10km road will be tunnelled mostly through the Penang Hill range, where there are three fault lines
The risk is real
The reclamation of three islands, called the Penang South Reclamation (PSR), is the other concern. It will utterly destroy marine ecosystems and the livelihood of thousands of fishermen
Years of research in the Philippines have shown that reclamation creates areas with stagnant water. This leads to an excessive algae bloom, followed by a massive loss of dissolved oxygen and inevitable fish kill
PSR, in effect, could eliminate most of our remaining fish supply, thus affecting food security
In fact, if PSR goes ahead, the first step involves the obliteration of all the mudflats (coastal wetlands) along the southern coast fronting the three proposed islands
What this means is that even if a reclamation is abandoned halfway, permanent ecological damage would already have been wrought
All told, at least 3,000 trees will be chopped to make way for PTMP. The above is only the more obvious damage
PTMP is not progressive in terms of urban transport development processInstead of bringing Penangites a better public transport system, PTMP will focus on redesigning cities for increased car use
All over the developed world, cities are to improve public transport in order to move people and not cars
Making roads easier for pedestrians to use and improving cycling lanes will be common features along with the promotion of efficient and sustainable modes of transport like buses on dedicated lanes BRT or Bus Rapid Transit and modern trams
Congestion charges will also help to reduce car usage. Model cities are Amsterdam, London, Vienna and Singapore. South Korea’s Cheonggyecheon even dismantled an elevated highway to replace it with a BRT scheme
With PTMP, it will be impossible for Penang to achieve 40% usage of public transport. Only 3% use public transport in Penang
The Braess paradox tells us that where there are more roads and highways, it will cause even more people to drive cars. Research has shown most new roads become jammed up again in an average of seven years
PTMP ignores mainland Seberang PeraiWhereas Halcrow encompasses transport development on the island and the mainland, PTMP suffers from the fatal flaw of ignoring the mainland for the next two to three decades. This is an injustice which can only be corrected by reinstating Halcrow
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow had said “the future of Penang is in Seberang Perai” but PTMP is going in the opposite direction. Is the mainland to play bridesmaid forever
PTMP lacks transparencyThe first paired road to be built by Zenith is supposed to kick off anytime soon but the 40,000 residents in Island Park and Island Glades, which it will affect, have been mostly ignorant of this highway as consultation has been minimal
For Zenith Package 3, which will be a two-layered tunnel for the long section running from Pangkor Road to Sungai Pinang Road, consultation has been almost non-existent. Most people think that this is an elevated highway
Currently, steps are being taken by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) to build the Mount Erskine Underpass, which will go beneath Gottlieb Road and emerge at Burmah Road near Adventist Hospital
Originally, the cemetery land was supposed to be acquired for this underpass but the plan has changed. There are now several households drastically affected by land acquisition for this underpass and they are merely being told that the underpass is much needed for better traffic flow
However, is this underpass a preparatory step for PIL which will be an elevated highway where it goes through Gottlieb Road and its construction will almost certainly cut across the Mt Erskine-Burmah Road artery for residents in the north
PTMP, through PIL, will pose a threat to the Air Itam DamAt RM9.6 billion, not only will PIL 1 be the most expensive highway in Malaysian history (almost RM1 million for every 2m of the highway) but its environmental impact assessment (EIA) proudly declares that the impact of tunnelling will be “medium to high”
The EIA also states: “The construction of tunnels may cause a deformation of the soils that may trigger a collapse and subsidence. Areas that intersect with fault zones are highly fractured and vulnerable to collapse
“This can damage both the work under construction and existing nearby structures such as condominiums, the Kek Lok Si Temple, the Air Itam Dam and the Bukit Bendera Complex.”As the dam can hold up to 2.6 million tonnes of water, we are rightly concerned for our safety because a breach into this earth dam’s wall, whether during blasting and drilling for the highway tunnel or anytime thereafter, will cause water to roar down like a tsunami from a 700ft elevation to a hapless populace below
ConclusionPTMP will not only cause massive degradation to our island but it will turn the dam into an existential danger and it is likely to bankrupt the state also. Food security will also be under threat as our fish and fishermen will face decimation of life and livelihood respectively
The only sensible way forward is to return to Halcrow. For Penang to thrive and not go under, Penangites must demand nothing less than this
Eric Cheah is a FMT reader.

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