Cash flow issues slowing Bukit Kukus road progress, says Penang exco man

Public Works Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari at a site visit in Bukit Kukus today.

GEORGE TOWN: The RM530 million Bukit Kukus bypass road project, where a fatal landslide occurred last year, may take more time to complete following cash flow issues affecting two private developers on the project.

State Public Works Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said two private developers in the project had encountered financial hardships after the project was stalled for investigation following the landslide.

The 5km bypass road connecting Bandar Baru Air Itam and Relau is being undertaken by the Penang Island City Council and two private developers – PLB Land Sdn Bhd (PLB) and Geo Valley Sdn Bhd (Geo Valley).

The council will build most of the three-section bypass road, while a 1.4km stretch will be built by the two developers, who are white knights at an abandoned housing project close by.

The housing project, known as Majestic Heights, is next to where the elevated portion of the road will be built. It hit several snags in 1998 and was abandoned in 2003. At the time, the project was 70% complete.

PLB and Geo Valley took over the project as white knights in July 2015 and, in return for the project site, were told to build the 1.4km stretch of the bypass road directly next to the land for the city council.

Today, Zairil said the two developers were experiencing slow sales for their new affordable housing project on the site, hence the cash flow issue.

“Nevertheless, the bypass road project as a whole is progressing well with the construction at 75% complete. The section undertaken by the developers is slower than usual due to cash flow issues but we expect the entire project to be completed by next year,” Zairil told reporters during a site visit here today.

He also announced a 200m link near the Durian Cap Cangkul shack at Jalan Paya Terubong (Relau/Balik Pulau-bound) which would allow motorists to cut straight to Lebuh Bukit Jambul near Inti International College.

Zairil said this link, in the form of a bridge, would be completed by the middle of next year and would allow motorists to avoid the winding roads of Jalan Paya Terubong.

“With the link, motorists can use the 3.5km last stretch of the road towards Bukit Jambul and Relau while waiting for the rest of the road to be completed.”

On Oct 19, a landslide below the elevated portion saw nine foreign workers buried alive in 12 worker cabins.

Later, government inspectors found that a total of 42,000 tonnes of earth had fallen on the cabin. Work continued on Jan 28 after the probe was completed.

An official investigation found that the landslide was caused by a 10-hour downpour, coupled with professional negligence in designing the temporary worksite where the cabins were located.

Sungai Relau, which has its starting point on the hill, was also the likely cause of the incident, as the city council said the river was not diverted properly before the project began.

Earlier, Zairil led a six-agency team to do a spot check. The team included personnel from the Department of Environment and the Mineral and Geoscience Department.

The agencies today found that the hill slopes were properly terraced, with drainage in place, geotextiles on cut portions of the hill, and the Sungai Relau diverted. A check-dam or filtration zone for the river had also been constructed.

Grass had been planted on the terraces to strengthen the hill slope and slow down the water flow in the area.

Inspecting officers, noting the turbidity in the diverted portion of Sungai Relau, told the contractors to build another check-dam to cut down siltation in the river.

However, the officers noted that the two-hour rain which preceded their visit could be the likely cause of the turbidity.

Another request made by the inspectors was to improve the geotextile covering and grass planting efforts on the cut terraces.

Overall, the officers declared the site to be safe, saying it meets erosion and sedimentation control plans or ESCP set by the Penang government.

Wan Ngah Wan Ali, chairman of main contractor Yuta Maju Sdn Bhd, said it was committed to following the ESCP closely in ensuring the safety of the project.

“We are confident we can complete the entire project next year and we assure you a panoramic view of Penang from this beautiful elevated road.”