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S. T. O. P.
(SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT OPTIONS for PENANG)

The Proposed Third Link In Penang

Memorandum to:

Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed
Prime Minister

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Deputy Prime Minister

Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon
Penang Chief Minister

Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu
Works Minister

third link We are an alliance of non-governmental organizations in Penang which share a concern over the lack of a comprehensive sustainable transport policy in the State including the suitability of the proposed Second Link to Penang. We are of the view that this new proposed link should be regarded as the 3rd link between the mainland and the island, given that the ferry service is the original first link.

We consist of the Consumers’ Association of Penang, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Aliran, the Penang Heritage Trust, Sustainable Transport Environment Penang, Sustainable Independent Living and Access, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Penang Division), and the Malayan Trades Union Congress (Penang Division).

Car Ownership Trends

It is very clear that since the 1960s, little has been done to promote public transport in the State. Instead, transport planning and infrastructure development have overwhelmingly supported the use of private vehicles creating a car-dependent population and, in the process, marginalising those without private cars.

The JICA Urban Transport study in 1981 had projected the per capita vehicle ownership for Penang to be 6.1 persons per car and 5.7 persons per motorcycle by the year 2000. However, these levels were surpassed even before 1990 and ownership levels in Penang are comparable to developed countries with 3 persons per car. Thus, in the year 2000, Penang had 321 cars per 1000 persons compared to 96 for Singapore and 49 for Hong Kong.

Vehicular Density

While the total road length in the State increased by about 38% between1990 and 2000, the total registered vehicles in the State increased by 107%.

Vehicle density thus increased by 1.5 times, while the number of vehicles per 1000 persons almost doubled. Hence, the pace of road development in Penang is not keeping pace with the rapid growth of motor vehicles.

During 1991-2000, traffic volume on the major primary roads in the State increased by around 10% per year largely attributed to growth of private vehicles (cars and motorcycles).

Accidents and other Health Hazards

An analysis of Penang’s road safety records shows that between 1991 and 2000, the rate of increase in road accidents (deaths and injuries), is significantly higher than the average for the entire country. The number of accidents per 10,000 persons in Penang is almost four times the national average in 2000.

The contribution of vehicle emissions to the overall air pollution load is also a major concern. Private cars, which constitute around 30% of the total number of vehicles, contribute more than 67% of the total emissions of particulates.

Lack of Integrated Transport Planning

We are of the view that urban transport planning needs to be comprehensive and integrated instead of being ad hoc. It must take into consideration the roles of various modes (road/rail/water) and interchanges, the role of non-motorised transport and the management of environmental and social impacts. Its objective should be equitable and efficient access for the people, not only motorcars.

We firmly believe that the State requires a comprehensive sustainable transport policy that is fundamentally committed to public transport and discourages private motorized transport. Such a transport system must be economically, ecologically and socially sustainable.

Concerns about the Third Link to Penang

The purpose of the Third Link seems to be to solve the frequent gridlock of motor vehicles taking place on the present Penang Bridge.

We believe that: -

  1. This problem cannot be addressed by simply facilitating access for more private cars and vehicles on another Bridge when the problem is the mobility and access of people.
  2. This solution also cannot be adopted without first considering its effect on the already serious traffic problems existing on Penang Island.
  3. In view of its enormous cost, we believe that other options such as upgrading the ferry services or a rail link should also be considered.
  4. Finally, in any proposed solution, the traffic congestion in the city and on Penang Bridge must be considered as part and parcel of the same problem.

Transparency and Accountability

In view of the Government’s commitment to transparency and accountability, we urge the Government to initiate public consultations on these issues. We also request that all the previous studies relating to Penang’s traffic problems and the feasibility of the ‘Third Link’ be open for public scrutiny and debate.

We look forward very much to being provided with these studies and reports so that we may understand better the rationale and basis for the proposed Third Link.

We record our deep regret over the statement by the Public Works Minister, Datuk Seri Samy Velu that public consultation is unnecessary as this is a Federal Government project. [The Star, 17/3/2000].

We trust that you will give this appeal your utmost consideration and would provide us with the information we have requested for. We also look forward to having a meaningful public consultation and dialogue with you in this regard.

We look forward to your urgent response.

S.M.Mohamed Idris
(for and behalf of S.T.O.P)

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