GEORGE TOWN, Dec 24 — Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong said today more automobiles are expected to use Penang Bridge and Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge to travel between the mainland and island because it is safer, quicker and cheaper than by ferries.
The transport minister confirmed in a statement that come 2021, two fast ferry vessels will carry foot passengers while one existing Prasarana-owned ferry will carry motorcycles and bicycles across the channel so there would not be any vehicular ferries for four-wheeled vehicles.
Wee said the decision made was aimed at making the Penang ferry service safer, faster and less prone to unsustainable maintenance costs.
He claimed that the existing 47-year-old ferries were prone to incurring maintenance costs on an average of once a month.
“Passenger safety must be paramount and therefore, a considered decision was made to modernise the ferry fleet to avoid unwanted incidents and inconvenience that may occur,” he said.
Wee admitted that the 126-year-old Penang ferry service, which was the first cross-strait ferry service between Penang island and the mainland, carried an intangible cultural and heritage value to many Malaysians who enjoyed the service.
He said to preserve the history that is unique to Penang, the ministry will seek proposals to convert the existing ferries into floating restaurants, museums or tourist cruises as suggested by various parties.
Wee said he had explained to Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow today the government’s plan to replace the existing ferries to optimise the safety, sustainability and security of the passenger ferry fleet to ensure that the service continues uninterrupted.
“We have reiterated what was agreed in our earlier meeting on August 27 in Parliament. I appreciate his understanding and we both look forward to moving on with this matter,” he said.
Wee also said Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz had confirmed that RM30 million was allocated for the fleet modernisation and that the sum will be released in two tranches, in 2021 and 2022.
Related Articles Perikatan govt ‘declaring confrontation’ with Penangites by cancelling ferry service, Guan Eng says Ramasamy calls Putrajaya’s refusal to revamp Penang's iconic ferries ‘a great betrayal’ Penang ferry offers free service for foot passengers in first two weeks of January 2021