Friday, March 19, 2010

Penang Transport Plan A Pipedream?

There are a total of 4 commissioned reports on a transport plan for Penang, namely Penang Strategic Development Plan 2, Halcrow Urban Transport Study Report 1998, JICA and QOL reports. All these reports have remained a pipedream as they never got to see the light of the day. Now the Penang administration under the leadership of Lim Guan Eng want to commission yet another report which is tout as the first comprehensive study on Penang’s transportation.

The state government has indicated that once the term of reference are finalised, an open tender will be called by the end of the month or early April. The report or Penang’s 2010 - 2030 Transportation Master Plan is expected to be ready next year.

One may wonder how the consultant is going to study our transport problem within such a short period of time. By imposing such a short lead time for studying our transport issues and preparing the transport plan, the state government is virtually slamming the door on all other consultants except those privy to the 4 previous transport reports.

As such no international consultants, other than Halcrow, will be able to bid for the tender. If the tender is awarded to a local consultant who has no previous experience or background in preparing a transport plan for Penang, one may question whether there is a likelihood of crony-ism involved.

And whether the 'successful' consultant had been given special access to the previous 4 reports? If the state government plans to use the 4 reports as the basics for layout the transport master plan, why spend another tonne of money to commission a new plan?

The 4 reports have been shrouded in secrecy after completion. It is high time for the state government to declassify those reports and make it public. The transportation master plan should be developed through a systematic review of existing transportation conditions, previously identified deficiencies, land use patterns, zoning and land use regulations, combined with input from local, regional and state stakeholders.

The plan should be concluded with a set of transportation and land use recommendations that arise out of the analysis and through stakeholder input. It should not be developed in a close door manner by a professional group of consultants without involving the relevant stakeholders .

It is unrealistic for a comprehensive transportation master plan to be written within a relatively short time frame. It is hard to convince skeptic that the state government is sincere in solving the traffic woes of Penangites. The whole exercise smack of publicity blitz to improve the public standing of Lim Guan Eng.

It is imperative for the state government to identify and establish all major transit corridors where all high density development take place. The state government need to acknowledging the lack of public funding for large scale infrastructure improvements and should forget about monorail type of system which is hardly affordable. Innovative funding mechanism should be identified. Private developer contributions for off-site improvements should be utilised to finance infrastructure improvement along all the major transit corridors.


  1. Hi Ong, this is Soh your ex-colleague from Otis. Please drop me an email at when you have time. Looking forward to hear from you soon. Perhaps you want to delete this message after you read it as it won't burn itself like those in the Mission Impossible. =)

  2. My long time lost friend, i am CC Teh,
    pls email me at

  3. Transport plan for Penang, how interesting?
    Considering Halcrow is a well known international consultancy in transport planning, they should be able to carry out this transport plan in a required time frame, but how accurate or I would say how appropriate this plan can help mitigate the congestion in Penang’s road network?

    To my experience, to carry out a transport plan, there’s a lot of data need to be collected such as demographics, historical traffic flow on major roads/arterials and people behaviors in daily travel pattern. All these data will then fit into a transport model, preferably integrated transport model so that the impact of private cars and public transport can be determined and solutions can be proposed based on the modeled results for a specific period of time, normally 30 years.

    I have a questions, do we have those data and information handy? or a transport plan can be done based on OBSERVATIONS? I hope not