GEORGE TOWN, Jan 1 ― On the first day of its operations, a healthy number of passengers boarded Penang Port’s new fleet of smaller boats replacing its iconic ferries crossing the channel from Butterworth to the turtle-shaped island.
Some of the passengers said they intentionally woke up early to take the fast boat across the Penang Channel, just for the experience as rides are free until January 14.
One of them was Mohd Arif Jaafar who made a roundtrip from the Sultan Abdul Halim Terminal in Butterworth to Raja Tun Uda Terminal on the island just because he found the boat ride such a novelty.
“I find the facilities at the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal on the island very comfortable and they have escalators for those who can't climb the staircase to go up to the waiting area,” the 61-year-old told Malay Mail when approached.
However, he said Penang Port will need to do something about the facilities at the terminal in Butterworth as there were two flights of steep staircases to climb, adding that it is a challenge for the elderly and the disabled.
Mohd Arif who lives in Butterworth, said the new boats were air conditioned and fast with comfortable seating.
“It is really fast so it is good if we are in a hurry,” he said.
Another passenger, Ho Ah Hock, 59, also agreed that the fast boats were comfortable as foot passengers now do not have to share the deck with cars.
“I use the ferry two to three times a week because I work in Bukit Mertajam and I don't drive, so the ferry is my main mode of transport to the mainland from the island,” he said.
But Ho said the old ferries were not as slow as most people assumed and he had no complaints about it even when foot passengers had to share the deck with cars.
When asked if he preferred the fast boats or the ferries, he diplomatically said it was a different mode of transportation.
“It's not like I have a choice, I still need to commute between the island and mainland so I still have to take it,” he added.
Salwani Salleh from Terengganu who was on a holiday with her family here said they boarded the fast boat from the island to Butterworth this morning just to try it out.
The 39-year-old said she was unaware of the change and had driven to the ferry terminal on the island when she was told that cars could no longer take the ferry across. So she parked her car and walked to the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal (SPCT) to take the fast boat.
“I think the fast boats are comfortable, it is air conditioned and before we know it, we have already arrived,” she said.
There was a slight confusion over at the Raja Tun Uda Terminal as commuters alighted from the main bus station there and wanted to board the fast boats from there.
The commuters were turned away and told to take the fast boats from SPCT. Many were seen making the 500-metre walk to Swettenham Pier.
The Penang ferry fleet is being discontinued from today, except for one, Pulau Angsa, which will only take motorcycles and bicycles for the next 18 months.
Foot passengers can take the fast boats from SPCT on the island and from the Sultan Abdul Halim Terminal in Butterworth which is connected to Penang Sentral.
New water buses for foot passengers and vehicle transporters for motorcycles and bicycles will arrive in 18 months' time and both the Sultan Abdul Halim Terminal and Raja Tun Uda Terminal will be upgraded to accommodate the new vessels.
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