Stop attacking Penang Transport Master Plan

As a Penangite, I am tired of the traffic jams, the state government, and the NGOs that can’t seem to stop attacking the Penang Transport Master Plan, like Khoo Salma. I am annoyed, frankly.

I refer to her letter published in FMT on Feb 14 titled “Is the PTMP a Trojan horse for the Penang South reclamation agenda?”.

The very first sentence in the letter slams the Penang government for “rushing to sign a Project Delivery Partner (PDP) agreement with SRS Consortium to implement the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP)” as if it is a bad thing.

I disagree with her. The state government is not rushing to implement this project. I think it’s slow. It’s not working fast enough.

We have talked about PTMP for so many years. The PTMP website shows a timeline for the master plan that started with the setting up of the Transport Council in 2009. It is now 2020.

As a Penangite, I would say “very good” if the state government is really rushing because we have waited long enough. Why complain when something concrete is going to be done about the atrocious traffic jams?

The PTMP covers roads and public transport like the LRT, BRT, trams and water taxis, the website says. To me, it looks like the plan is holistic enough, but there are NGOs saying it is all wrong, even the LRT.

I thought we all agree that public transport is the solution to our traffic problem. When the LRT is ready in six or seven years, many will be able to take the train and not have to drive. Why is the LRT wrong for Penang? How is it not going to work? If we don’t build the LRT and force everyone to continue driving, then how will we solve the congestion?

At the same time, the NGOs object to building more roads because it will put more cars on the road. How are we going to improve traffic flow if we don’t improve the road network? Even buses are stuck in jams. How do we move people and the vehicles with people inside then if we don’t build the LRT or improve our roads?

I felt relief when I read the news late last year that the construction of the new highway linking Air Itam and the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway is starting soon. At least, something is moving in the PTMP.

Why is the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) a Trojan horse? There are many debates about the reclamation, but many can also accept PSR as the means to pay for the PTMP components and other major state projects. This means the state will not have to depend on federal funds or loans from banks. Is this wrong?

The state explained that PSR can create more land for development, such as expanding the industrial zone. This can also lead to job creation. Is this a bad thing too?

The NGOs like to bring up the high cost of PTMP and PSR, but what cost will Penang pay if we don’t implement these projects?

Where will we find new land for development; and how will we expand the industrial zone, bring in investors, create new jobs, attract and retain talents, stimulate and sustain economic growth for Penang?

It was good Khoo Salma pointed out that Kedah is building a new international airport in Kulim. We know what this means, right? Attention is going to shift from Penang to Kulim unless we remain competitive.

We can’t stay competitive without strategic land for high-tech industries. We will lose investors, jobs and talents to Kedah. And here, Khoo Salma says no to PTMP and PSR. What does she really want then?

What are her solutions to our worsening traffic jams and slowing economic growth? How does she suggest Penang provide high-quality jobs for the people, especially the younger generation?

All I remember hearing from her are pessimistic views that dampen other people’s hopes. I don’t know what she wants to achieve.

Frankly, many of us don’t really care whether PTMP is different from that Halcrow Plan or not.

We just care how fast and how efficiently we can get to work, school, or wherever. We care how far Penang can grow for the good of everyone’s future.

Alfie Nur is a reader of FMT.

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