GEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is optimistic there will be a turnaround in the ailing ferry services between here and Butterworth once public transport operator Prasarana takes over.
Prasarana has been slated to take over the reins of the service from federal-linked Penang Port Sdn Bhd, The Star reported today.
Lim said given Prasarana’s good track record in providing public bus service in Penang, the ferry services would be no different.
“We want to keep an open mind and remain hopeful Prasarana will do well when it takes over the ferry services.
“RapidPenang (Prasarana’s bus service in the state) has improved greatly over the past few years.
“We see the people running RapidPenang are committed and professional,” he said at a press conference today.
Prasarana, a government-linked company, runs rail and bus services in several towns and cities in the country.
The company has not made any statements on the ferry matter, but uploaded a “Rapid Ferry” logo as a teaser on its Facebook page on Friday.
Lim said during a courtesy call by Prasarana’s bosses a few months ago, Penang was assured that waiting time for ferries would be reduced after the takeover.
Lim said Prasarana also had planned to introduce a number of catamaran-type ferries, which were quicker than the traditional ferries in use now.
He said the existing ferries will be in service together with catamarans for the heritage value as the barges were seen as an iconic symbol of Penang.
Previously, the Penang government had offered to take over the ferry services from Penang Port.
However, the state government had insisted that it be given total independence from the regulators, that is the Penang Port Commission, as Lim said there would otherwise be undue political interference.
Penang also sought to get 30 licences for “water taxis” and for all the losses of the ferry services unit to be absorbed, before the state government purchased it.
Lim said since there was no reply on their requests, the offer fell through.
On a different note, Lim also said the Penang Port operator must keep its promise to deepen the channel.
He said as per an agreement signed three years ago, the current channel’s seabed depth, which stands at 11.5m, must be deepened another 3m to 14.5m.
Lim said the cost of doing so was RM353 million and was supposed to be borne by Seaport Terminal, the parent company of Penang Port Sdn Bhd.