– By Joshua Woo . In Penang Monthly, October 2016. http://penangmonthly.com/better-cheaper-faster-really/ 

This article by Mr. Joshua Woo, Special Officer to Member of Parliament of Bukit Mertajam, Penang, Malaysia provides a critical analysis of two radically different, hotly contested  approaches to sustainable transport planning and policy for the state of Penang, Malaysia.  Readers  not familiar with these challenges and critical differences in Penang are invited to consult  the background  postings here: (a) Penang Transport Master Plan (b) Penang – A Sustainable Transport Primer for a Battle of Ideas ;and  (c) The NGO Challenge, and (d) State Government response to NGOsYou may also find good value  in a three minute video which provides a very good, and very funny synopsis of the process currently underway: (e) The Three Minute Summary .                                        * Still hungry for more from all sides: work your way down the right hand menu to this site.


Introduction:: The Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) is the state government’s biggest infrastructural undertaking in recent history. The state first launched a feasibility study – commonly known as the Halcrow study[1] – and later through an open bidding system as evaluated and recommended by the independent advisory KPMG, appointed SRS Consortium (SRS) as the Project Delivery Partner of the PTMP.

Partially based on Halcrow’s findings, SRS proposes to build an elevated Light-Rail Transit (LRT) from Permatang Damar Laut to Komtar, connecting important places such as the airport, Free Industrial Zone, Sungai Nibong Bus Express Terminal, Subterranean Penang International Convention & Exhibition Centre (SPICE), Universiti Sains Malaysia and George Town. There will be 19 stations along the 22km line to serve the heavy traffic corridor on the eastern part of the island, with the estimated construction cost of RM220mil per km and operating cost of RM170mil for the first year.[2]

The LRT’s capacity of 18,500 passengers per hour per direction (PPHPD) is aimed at increasing public transport usage to 40% from the current 3.2%, and achieving 116,000 daily ridership by 2023 based on the anticipated demand fueled by significant increases in investments and by population growth.[3]

The SRS’s proposal has drawn much criticism, especially from a group of non-governmental organisations called the Penang Forum that tabled their own proposal, called Better, Cheaper, Faster: Penang Transport Master Plan (BCF) in July. The 61-page document raises objections, among others, over the ridership projection and cost of SRS’s proposal; and demands a tram system based on the earlier proposal submitted by Halcrow in place of the LRT.

Main critical arguments

  1. Ridership projections

  2. Cost Difference Between LRT and Tram

(See full text for details)

Closing challenge

  • As such, with the absence of a funding model and because of the usage of unreliable data, at best the BCF is a cautionary note to the state government and SRS to exercise extra care with the PTMP.
  • At worst, it is a false presentation to the public that the BCF is really an alternative when it is not.

* Full text available at http://penangmonthly.com/better-cheaper-faster-really/

# # #

About the author:

penang-joshua-woo-and-steven-simJoshua Woo works as Special Officer to Member of Parliament of Bukit Mertajam, Penang, His FaceBook page is https://www.facebook.com/joshuawoosz.

Picture: Joshua Woo is deep right, with Stephen Sim left foreground.

# # #

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | http://bit.ly/2Ti8LsX | #fekbritton | https://twitter.com/ericbritton | and | https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericbritton/ Contact: climate@newmobility.org) | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

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