No conflict of interest in transport project, says Penang

Chow-Kon-Yeow

GEORGE TOWN: There was no conflict of interest when the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) delivery partner SRS Consortium carried out its own studies on the project feasibility and traffic ridership forecast for the state government.

State local government, traffic management and flood mitigation committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said SRS’s role was to assist the Penang government in implementing the master plan.

“It’s not a private developer and its objective is aligned with the state government’s,” he said in a statement to FMT today.

Chow was replying to a list of questions and issues raised by PTMP critic Roger Teoh, a PhD student in transport studies at the Imperial College in London who had written several articles questioning the master plan.

Teoh had announced his resignation from DAP after his views on the PTMP were not entertained last month but has since decided to return to DAP after being assured of “direct access” to top state leaders to air his views.

On the ridership forecast, Chow said the travel demand model – incorporating projected traffic ridership – used by global engineering company CH2M for the Request For Proposal (RFP) was based on the model developed for the Penang State Government Halcrow TMP Strategy Report carried out by the same consultant.

“The relevant financial and economic feasibilities for the proposed TMP components in the RFP were carried out by reputed professional consultants,” he said.

Chow said since SRS was appointed to deliver the project, the proposed transport components in the RFP have gone through various amendments and further improvements via engagement with state agencies and bodies.

“To ensure independence and unbiased judgement, USM (Universiti Sains Malaysia) has been appointed to conduct independent peer review on SRS’s RFP documents and recommendations.

“This is to ensure check and balance between the state government and SRS,” he said, adding the RFP process was “open to the public and evaluated by professional consultant KPMG”.

He also denied claims that the Penang government “refused” to work with non-governmental organisations, adding many meetings and workshops on the PTMP had been held with NGOs, including Penang Forum – a loose coalition of Penang public-interest civil society groups.

But there were “major issues” with some of the proposals by the NGOs, Chow said, referring to their suggestions to build at-grade tram and at-grade bus rapid transit (BRT) lines on Penang Island.

He said trams would require the state to acquire land, which would be expensive, adding that trams were also low capacity and would cause huge business disruption during construction because it would involve relocating utilities and foundation treatment.

He said the same applied to at-grade BRT.

“Providing sufficient road space is the main concern. The BRT system is not practical on Penang Island as it will cause massive social cost from a complete overhaul of the road system,” he said.

The PTMP is a multibillion ringgit ambitious plan by the state government to solve Penang’s worsening traffic congestion. The master plan involves the building of new highways as well as introducing rail lines and improving public transportation.