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.