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10 Good Reasons why Penang does not need the Third Link

By Ganesh Rasagam

ferry 1. Will the Third Link reduce urban traffic congestion and travel delay?


Traffic modeling shows that with both the Penang and Butterworth Outer Ring Roads in place together with the Third Link, traffic congestion and travel delay will be much worse than at present. New roads, especially bridges, attract more traffic that in the case of Penang will be mainly single occupancy private cars and motorcycles. The road networks at the exit and entry points to the Third Link will not have adequate traffic dispersal capacity to cope with this increase in vehicles as shown by the experience in the Klang Valley and in many parts of the world.

2. Will the Third Link improve the quality of the urban environment?


There will be increased air and noise pollution from vehicular emissions and more residential neighbourhoods will be exposed to traffic generated pollution. There will be significant impact on the coastal zones, the marine ecology and the port from the sediments and waste generated by the seabed construction and land reclamation activity. The widening of access roads and construction of new overhead passes will lead to visual intrusion and community severance in established residential districts.

3. Will the Third Link improve travel safety and comfort?


An increase in private vehicle usage normally results in higher rates of deaths and serious injury from road accidents especially for the more vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians. Delays due to traffic congestion at the entry and exit points and increased exposure to noise and air pollution will increase driver frustration and have an adverse health impact. The average length of driving trips will increase resulting in a higher risk of road accidents.

4. Will the Third Link increase public transport usage?


The Third Link will significantly increase private vehicle ownership and use and will further erode public transport usage.

5. Will the Third Link facilitate sustainable landuse?


The Third Link will intensify urban sprawl, generate longer, more expensive and inefficient commuting trips and establish extensive, unsustainable urban landuse and travel patterns. The pattern of urbanization will be based on a car centric road network that will require substantial land allocations for road and parking space at the expense of coastal community recreational facilities, parks and open spaces.

6. Will the Third Link enhance quality of life for the people of Penang?


With increased traffic congestion, pollution, destruction of natural coastal and marine eco-systems, urban sprawl and stress, there will be an obvious decline in the quality of life for both residents and visitors to Penang.

7. Is the Third Link economically feasible?


The project consultants will inevitably conclude that the firm that gets the toll concession will enjoy a positive return on investment based on revenue from grossly inflated traffic volume projections. However, this simplistic economic evaluation will not include the external environmental and social costs of the project that will be borne by the people of Penang. Japanese loans are normally tied to Japanese consultants, contractors and equipment suppliers who will only leave the crumbs to the locals. Ironically, at a time when Japan has decided to switch focus away from roads and bridges to investments in public transport systems, Japanese firms are actively pursuing these projects overseas to be built using Japanese funds and suppliers so that more Japanese cars and motorcycles can be sold.

8. Is the Third Link financially sustainable?


The estimated cost of RM 2.3 billion appears to be unrealistically low considering the complexities of undersea tunneling and the fact that the relatively simpler Penang Bridge cost almost RM 1.0 billion around 20 years ago! In any case, the next two generations of Malaysians will be indebted to the Japanese for this loan. Given the notoriety of the Japanese financial system there is more than enough reason to worry about whether the financial viability of this project has been properly analysed.

9. Will the Third Link enhance Penang’s economic competitiveness?


The usual arguments of reducing travel times and delay costs do not hold in this case as traffic congestion will still be a major problem. On top of that, land freight costs will increase, as both bridge tolls will inevitably need to be raised substantially to pay for the Third Link. As for tourism, the traffic congestion, urban sprawl and decline in quality of life will certainly erode the attractiveness of Penang. It is rather unlikely that tourists will arrive in droves to visit the “Titanic” in the middle of the Third Link!

10. Is the Third Link the only or best option?


Optimising the efficient use of the Penang bridge through widening and implementation of intelligent traffic management systems, expanding the ferry service and introducing an integrated lightrail transit (LRT) based public transport system are far more sustainable and cost effective solutions in the long-term.

Now tell us what you think. E-mail us.