Archived: Parti Rakyat backs Penang mega project

GEORGE TOWN: A political activist today voiced support for Penang’s traffic improvement project, bucking the trend of criticism that has followed its recent announcement.

Gary Nair, who leads the Penang chapter of Parti Rakyat Malaysia, said the state needed an efficient traffic dispersal system and better connectivity between population and commercial centres.

He called on civic and political groups to consider these needs when discussing the project, which covers the construction of four highways, including an undersea tunnel, and will cost more than RM6 billion.

However, he agreed with critics that the state needed to conduct more studies on the feasibility of digging a tunnel to connect Penang island with Seberang Prai.

The other three highways in the project are all restricted to the island.

Nair said he saw no good reason to oppose these.

He urged NGOs to improve their interaction with the various strata of society so that their criticisms would be based on an understanding of what the public needs.

He said he agreed with NGOs who believe that efforts to improve traffic flow must include a review of the public transport system.

However, he noted that one aspect of the issue that was often ignored was the need to encourage people to give up their private vehicles in favour of public transport.

Nair reacted unfavourably to the state’s proposal to have highway lanes reserved for workers who prefer to commute by bicycle.

“We are not living in Europe where the weather permits office workers to cycle to work,” he said.

“We also do not have roads that are large enough to accommodate bicycle riders. There is no practical approach to it.”

According to Nair, most people who ride bicycles do so for recreation and exercise. Instead of marking out special lanes on the highways, the state should consider off-the-road tracks for recreational cycling, he said.