GEORGE TOWN, Dec 8 — Several civil society groups led by Penang Forum and Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) is calling on the new government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to review the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
Penang Forum steering committee member Lim Mah Hui said today they will write to Anwar and Transport Minister Anthony Loke to review the mega-project.
“So far, the prime minister has set the tone for his new administration by commendably shunning extravagant spending, especially in his choice of official car, saving the government a large sum of money,”
“In the same vein, we hope the new PM will review all mega-projects, which involve billions of ringgit of public funds,” he said in a joint press conference with CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president Meenakshi Raman and other non-governmental organisations (NGO) including Malaysian Nature Society Penang Branch (MNS) nand Penang Public Transport Users Association (Petua).
He said the civil society groups in Penang have consistently highlighted the “bloated” PTMP that is unsustainable while the state government has remained adamant in implementing it.
“We propose that the federal government engage international experts on sustainable mobility to review the bloated PTMP,” he said.
He said the federal government can rope in the non-profit Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) based in New York that has considerable expertise in looking at sustainable mobility solutions.
He said the government’s focus should be on building up the bus system in Penang and later upgrading the busy routes to street-level rail lines when the need rises and improving first and last mile connectivity.
He pointed out that Penang has less than 400 buses while in comparison, Singapore now has almost 6,000 buses that carry more passengers than their MRT system.
He said Singapore improved its bus service before it started its MRT system.
“This would cost only a fraction of the PTMP,” he said.
Meanwhile, Meenakshi said the new federal government started out being prudent in its spending so they should also be prudent when it comes to mega projects such as PTMP.
“The world today is different than when the PTMP was drawn because we are facing a global recession and all these plans were made during a different situation,” she said.
She said the PTMP needed to be review to fit the current economic situation.
“We are not against a good transport plan but we want a plan that is sustainable,” she said.
Mohideen said the state government has turned a deaf ear to the NGOs’ objections against the PTMP.
“Instead of reviewing it, they set up their own NGOs to defend the project,” he said,
He accused the state government of being insincere when taking into consideration the objections by the local civil society groups.
“There are some ministers in the new Cabinet who are concerned about the environment and social justice so we hope they will look into this and stop this project,” he said.
The NGOs that will be submitting a joint letter to the Prime Minister and Transport Minister including Penang Forum, CAP, SAM, Agora, Aliran, Arts ED, Jaringan Ekologi dan Iklim (JEDI), MNS, Petua, Penang Heritage Trust, Penang Hills Watch and Tanjong Bungah Resident Association.