GEORGE TOWN, Jan 8 — The Transport Ministry (MOT) did not cancel three infrastructural projects which the Penang government wanted to implement as claimed.
The ministry said in a statement that the Penang ferry service was not cancelled as stated previously.
The ferry service was instead being improved through modernisation to ensure it was more comfortable, efficient, prioritised the safety of passengers and easier to maintain in the long run.
“This was to also improve the old ferry’s weakness as they would often break down, a month once on average. RM30 million was allocated by the federal government to purchase new water buses and vehicle ferries for the service. Prasarana Malaysia Bhd has rented two high speed ferries for temporary use until the new ferries being operations in 18 months’ time.
“The modernisation phase begins with three water buses (specifically for passengers) from Jan 1, 2021, while two vehicle carriers for two-wheelers such as motorcycles and bicycles will begin operations in 2022. Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) will speed up the process of acquiring the new water buses from suppliers before it can be fully operational,” the statement read.
According to the statement, in order to preserve Penang’s heritage and cultural icon, suggestions from various parties, including those made by Penang DAP secretary Senator Lim Hui Ying on Dec 17, would be considered, including turning the old ferries into floating restaurants, museums or for cruises.
Yesterday, Hui Ying, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng made a joint media statement and reportedly said that Penang would continue four projects that were cancelled by the federal government previously, for the benefit and in the interests of 1.6 million citizens of the state although the state had limited resources.
Meanwhile, regarding the improvement and expansion of the Penang International Airport, the statement said that on Nov 12, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong had replied to Chow’s question during a Parliament sitting regarding the status of the airport’s expansion, stating that the suggested project was not cancelled.
“The decision for the suggested project, however, would be scrutinised comprehensively taking into consideration the passenger demand worldwide and the economic situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the light of the weak passenger demand, the Penang government was urged to focus on several main issues such as the process of obtaining land for the airport expansion project.
“Previously, the transport minister also had a meeting with the chief minister on Aug 27, 2020 and realised that the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted the aviation industry severely, including the ability of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) to finance the upgrading and expansion of the Penang International Airport as suggested,” the statement read.
On Jun 28, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that the total global air passenger demand had declined drastically to 55 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the statement.
It also said that the decline in total passengers at the Penang airport was much worse, with a 78 per cent reduction from 8.256 million in 2019 to 1.816 million in 2020.
Meanwhile, regarding the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project from Bayan Lepas to Komtar, the ministry said it did not cancel the project as claimed, but the Penang government had yet to hand over the final approved Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) from the Department of Environment and the Rural and Urban Planning Department (PLAN Malaysia) to the Land Public Transport Department (APAD) for the Transport Minister to approve under subsection 84(6) Act 715 (Land Public Transport Act 2010).
“The Transport Ministry previously had given conditional approval for the LRT project subject to the final approval of the SIA and EIA. On Nov 10, the state government was informed that the latest LRT scheme could not be approved without the approval of the SIA and EIA for the entire proposed alignment.
“According to the law, the Transport Ministry did not give partial approval for certain parts besides the proposed alignment. Both EIA and SIA approvals are needed because the alignment of the LRT requires land reclamation (Penang South Reclamation) and will affect the airport expansion in the future,” the statement read.
Therefore, the ministry hoped that the political leadership in the state would refrain from spreading fiction for their political gain and to always provide the true facts to the citizens.
“The ministry will continue to encourage feedback, opinions and suggestions from all state governments relating to the development and improvement of public transport infrastructure for the comfort and safety of all passengers,” the statement explained.