Exco: Penang Transport Master Plan has obtained almost all approvals for project to start

Penang State Exco Zairil Khir Johari speaks during a press conference at the Komtar building in George Town February 4, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang State Exco Zairil Khir Johari speaks during a press conference at the Komtar building in George Town February 4, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 15 — Penang has obtained almost all relevant approvals for its mega infrastructure project, the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), and work on one of its projects has already started, the state legislative assembly heard today.

State exco for infrastructure and transport Zairil Khir Johari (DAP – Tanjung Bungah) said early construction work for package two of the undersea tunnel and three highways project, which is to link the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway to Ayer Itam, commenced on October 31 last year.

“The state has decided to start work on package two because it was among the other projects that had obtained the necessary approvals first,” he said in reply to a question on the PTMP by Jason Ong Khan Lee (PKR – Kebun Bunga).

He said the contractor is still finalising the detailed design for package one — a highway connecting Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang — and package three — a highway connecting Gurney Drive to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway.

He stressed that the state government will only begin work on projects that had obtained all the necessary approvals.

“The state government will ensure to obtain all relevant approvals before starting work on any of the projects,” he said.

He said work on package one could not start yet because the state had asked the contractor to amend the detailed design of the highway.

Opposition leader Datuk Mohamad Yusoff Mohd Noor (BN – Sungai Dua) then asked whether the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project will start first before the construction of the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1) and Bayan Lepas Light Rail Transit (BLLRT).

“We do not want it to become like the undersea tunnel in which the state has already transferred the land to the contractor, the land is already developed, and yet the feasibility study has yet to be completed,” he said.

Zairil replied that the funding model for the PTMP was to reclaim three islands off the southern coast of Penang island under PSR.

“If we look at the original timeline, the islands will be reclaimed first, the state will get funds from the islands, and then it will build the PIL1 and BLLRT,” he said.

He said the state views the PIL1 and BLLRT as important projects that had to start first, if not concurrently with the reclamation project, at least immediately after the islands were reclaimed.

“However, to realise this, we need funding and that is why the state is looking at options for the state to implement the LRT project at the same time as the reclamation,” he said.

He said the previous prime minister had agreed to issue a guarantee for the state to obtain funding for the project but now, due to a change in government, the state is following up on the guarantee.

“If we can get approval from the federal government, then we can apply for loans or issue bonds to fund the LRT while the reclamation is ongoing,” he said.

He assured Yusoff that no land was transferred to fund the feasibility study for the undersea tunnel, before adding that the only land transferred was for the feasibility study and detailed design for the three highway packages.