Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 26 April 2016

Penang NGOs should be commended for alerting us and especially denizens of Penang about the dire consequences of the multi-billion transport master plan (PTMP) and demanding more consultation and transparency in this project that will affect the lives and landscape of this pearly isle. The NGOs lamented that priority in the plan is given to private vehicles when the purpose of an integrated public transport system in a modern city should be to reduce, not encourage, private vehicle usage.

Apart from its cost which is estimated at RM40 billion presently and the consequences of the reclamation plans, undersea tunnel and highways on traffic on the island, Penang should avoid the unsightly monorail system we have in Kuala Lumpur.

Protect urban landscape from unsightly monorail infrastructure

I still cannot understand how the Kuala Lumpur city planners, heritage protectors and even the Malaysian Chinese community could have allowed the construction of the concrete monorail monstrosity to obstruct the views of the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, the Chen Ancestral Shrine, the Guan Yin temple and the entrance to Petaling Street. These are some of Kuala Lumpur’s oldest heritage sites which should have been protected from being obscured by the unsightly monorail infrastructure. The Guan Yin temple was built in 1888, the Chen Ancestral Temple in 1896 and the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in 1934. There are other heritage sites along the monorail route which are likewise needlessly obscured from view.

It will only be a matter of time before the City Council will allow even more unsightly billboards to be plastered all over these concrete monstrosities in an attempt to raise revenue.

Although a bit late in the day, Penang has the advantage of being able to avoid the mistakes made by other city planners. It is worth noting that the less imposing steel infrastructure that supported the Sydney monorail system was dismantled in 2014. When it was finally taken down, Sydney denizens were relieved that the unsightly eyesore of the monorail was removed and their urban landscape reclaimed.

Introduce an efficient & affordable tram system

Having just returned from a most pleasant trip to Melbourne, I was impressed by the charming and seamless tram system in the city – a free circuit round the city centre and an affordable tram service radiating from the city outwards to the suburbs.

Penang used to have a tram system in the early 20th century and so did the other former Straits Settlement Singapore. I believe the old tram rails have been preserved so there is no reason for the PTMP to limit the tram system to the Unesco world heritage site in order to cater to the larger Penang commuters.