GEORGE TOWN: Penang’s plans to build a light rail transit (LRT) line may not be the best bet to improve public transport in the state, Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook said.
He said while the federal government remains fully committed to helping Penang with public transport, a study conducted by the ministry showed LRT might not be feasible at the moment.
However, he did not state the other options except in broad terms of “trams and other modes”.
“We will ask the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) to brief the chief minister on our findings, which lay down the way forward for either LRT, tram or other modes.
“Our study shows LRT might not be the best option. We have other proposals. It is up to the state to decide what is best. For us, we want to give other options for the state to choose from,” Loke said at a press conference.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, who was present at the press conference, said the term “trams” was now used interchangeably with LRT, the difference being one runs on the ground and the other on elevated tracks.
He said he welcomed the comments made by Loke, saying the state remained open to options as long as it secured financing to implement its public transport plans.
Chow said the state had submitted the LRT plans to SPAD in 2016 and was told to wait until a larger northern region public transport system plan was developed.
Penang has proposed a George Town-airport LRT line as part of its RM47 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
Civil society groups oppose the planned RM8.4 billion LRT project, saying it was too expensive to build and operate, with the projected ridership of 42 million passengers a year being unrealistic.
Supporters of the project say the LRT line would ease massive rush hour traffic along congested roads on the island and improve road safety immensely.
The proposed Bayan Lepas LRT line will cover 30km and will run from Komtar, the state administrative seat, to the future three reclaimed islands in the south, with 27 stations in between.
The line will serve the industrial area in Bayan Lepas and travellers at the Penang International Airport. It would cross townships and employment hubs in Jelutong, Gelugor, Batu Uban, Bayan Baru, Sg Tiram and Batu Maung.