What bad vibes from Penang highway construction?

Pix credit: facebook.com/ivanlimphotography

It has come to FMM Penang’s attention that a certain individual is alleging that “a proposed highway in Penang may drive out high-value factories due to ‘excess vibrations’ from the construction of a proposed elevated highway across an industrial zone on the island”.

The activist also alleged that “the worst affected would likely be the precision manufacturing factories at the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone (FIZ)” and predicted that “more factories will be forced to leave in search of other places as a result of the vibrations from the highway’s construction”.

FMM Penang, as an industrial body representing member companies in Bayan Lepas FIZ, takes a serious view of the above assertions as they call into question not only the operational viability of our members (including precision manufacturing companies, etc) going forward, but also the long-term attractiveness of Bayan Lepas FIZ as a preferred destination for high-value manufacturing.

In light of the potential gravity of such claims, FMM Penang would appreciate if the individual shared the relevant studies/ facts/information/data with the public to support such insights.

As it is known, part of Bayan Lepas FIZ is adjacent to the Penang International Airport where high-frequency flights take place daily, potentially inducing vibrations to surrounding areas from takeoffs and landings. However, to date, we have not heard of any operational issues from our member companies due to vibrations emanating from the airport, nor have we received any grievances relating to this matter thus far.

The same applies to the elevated Bayan Lepas Expressway, which runs across Bayan Lepas FIZ (above Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah), where a high volume of vehicles ply the route on a daily basis, also emanating vibrations.

It is important to note that the success of the Bayan Lepas FIZ today is the culmination of more than four decades of value-adding investments enabled by advancements in technological capability, capacity building and diversification, which moved Bayan Lepas FIZ as one of the region’s most successful electrical and electronics (E&E) industrial zones up the value chain.

The continued vibrance of the E&E high-tech manufacturing sector in Bayan Lepas FIZ is based on a sustainable ecosystem comprising more than 600 E&E companies where critical mass (economies of scale) is achieved with MNCs and SMEs developing links with each other, supported by local vendors/suppliers in logistics, packaging, plastics, precision engineering, etc.

Hence, as a key stakeholder in the industrial sector in Penang, it is in our interests to ensure the conducive ecosystem in Bayan Lepas FIZ is not only sustained, but further expanded to yield positive investment and economic outcomes for Penang in the coming years.

With this, FMM Penang strongly urges the authorities to place more investments in the state’s public transport and traffic dispersal system, especially in the high-density Bayan Lepas area that needs urgent upgrading, and expand the Bayan Lepas FIZ for new investment opportunities.

With the Bayan Lepas FIZ being fully developed and no available land on the island for future expansion, any delays in the execution of the carefully planned PTMP and the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) by the state government could cause prolonged productivity loss from unresolved worsening in traffic congestion and opportunity loss from constrained growth.

This would be counter-productive to the interests of our members and could lead to further erosion in Penang’s attractiveness as an investment destination compared with other regional manufacturing and services hubs such as India, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

In fact, based on feedback, most of our workers in the FIZ area welcome the proposed PIL 1 highway as it provides an alternative ring road to disperse traffic heading towards Tg Tokong, Tg Bungah and other northern areas.

Having keenly followed the development of PTMP since 2015, the Penang state government has been receptive to FMM Penang’s suggestion that easing traffic congestion during peak hours is of utmost importance to our thousands of workers who need to go to work and return home in a timely manner.

For this to happen, we are of the view that the PIL 1 highway should be implemented together with the proposed elevated LRT, which forms a holistic approach for seamless transfer/integration between different modes of transport ie. bus, rail and private vehicles.

The elevated Bayan Lepas LRT, which will form the public transport backbone, will provide a reliable long-term solution to Penang’s long-standing traffic problems.

With an efficient public transport system such as an elevated LRT and an effective new highway bypass such as the PIL 1 highway, the anticipated improvement in operational competitiveness (cost savings) is potentially significant to the industry, and will contribute to the success of the nation as a whole.

In our humble opinion, there should be no further delay in executing the long-awaited PTMP and PSR which will be a crucial driver to realising Penang’s socio-economic vision by 2030.

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers is an economic organisation representing leading manufacturing and service companies in Penang.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.