GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Forum insisted today it was still cheaper to build trams rather than the Light Rail Transit (LRT), saying its claim was based on research done by professional transport consultants, not Google searches as suggested by the Penang chief minister.
The influential grouping of Penang-based NGOs said this after Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng rebuked them over the weekend, saying their arguments were based on Google searches and had paid no mind to research by experts in the field
In a statement today, Penang Forum defended its claim by reproducing figures presented by Penang government-appointed transport consultants Halcrow.
According to figures presented by Halcrow, the cost of laying out tramlines, or bus-based rapid transits, were lower in cost.
The Forum also accused the project delivery partner of the Penang Transport Master Plan of “escalating the construction cost for trams by over five times while leaving that of LRT the same”.
“It is of great worry to Penangites that if the chief minister has been so erroneously advised on such a basic issue, what of the more complex ones?
“Not only the construction costs, but more importantly, the yearly operating and maintenance costs of trams are two to three times cheaper than LRT, according to experts we interviewed,” the statement read.
The Forum said Halcrow, had also stated the estimated cost of construction per kilometre for trams is RM40 million at road level, and RM80 million if elevated.
“Furthermore, our interviews with the two tram manufacturers showed that the average construction costs per kilometre for trams ranges from 17 million euros to 25 million euros.”
The Forum added that queries on the Operations and Maintenance costs were not properly answered by the Penang government officials.
“It is these costs and the actual ridership that will make or break the financial feasibility of the SRS proposals.
“These questions have not been satisfactorily answered by the master plan consortium, and state exco member Chow Kon Yeow in his A-Z answers.” it said.
Last moth, the Forum opposed the RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), labelling the project as “big-bang” and “car-centric”.
The PTMP includes the construction of several highways and seven LRT lines, among others by 2065.
Instead, the Forum wants the Penang government to build tram and bus rapid transit lines, which are cheaper, easier to maintain and would ensure ridership in the long run.
But Lim had said by rejecting the PTMP, it would not get any funds to support the project, and financing from the Federal Government was unlikely.
The PTMP will be funded through the reclamation of three artificial islands, measuring 4,500 acres, south of Penang Island.
Meanwhile, the Forum also called for a public presentation by international tram manufacturers for public consideration.
“May we also suggest that a series of public forums be held where SRS, state officials and Penang Forum can make their presentations to the public.”