Tunnel as game-changer and economic catalyst


FOLLOWING the opening of the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge, the mainstream media has gone into overdrive in asking the state government to abandon the proposed third link of an under-seabed tunnel between Gurney Drive on the island and Bagan Ajam on the mainland.
Only two flimsy objections were given, namely that there is no need for a third link in Penang, now that there are two bridges reducing traffic congestion and the issue of environmental concerns of building an under-seabed tunnel.

On March 2, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng issued a press statement and pointed out several issues.
“Any basic transportation study will bear out the premise that for an island, the more links the better in terms of reducing traffic bottlenecks and traffic congestion,” Lim said in the statement.
He added that the under-seabed tunnel is financed partly and is a key element of the Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) for Phase 2 of the Tanjung Pinang land reclamation project by the E&O group.
This 940-acre land reclamation project was approved, concluded and signed by the previous Barisan Nasional state government.
“At that time, the same media did not object to the land reclamation project,” Lim said.

The state government honoured the previous agreement signed but managed to include additional public interest elements such as working out a traffic dispersal scheme within the system with a RM6.3 billion project that includes:-
• a 4-lane highway from Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang,
• a 4-lane highway from Air Hitam to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway,
• a 4-lane highway from Gurney Drive to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway; and
• an under sea-bed tunnel connecting Gurney Drive on the island to the mainland in Bagan Ajam.

The whole project was awarded by open competitive tender.
This under-seabed tunnel would take up to 12 years to complete.
By that time, there would be a need for a third link with population growth and if the state government realises its vision of transforming Penang into an international and intelligent city that attracts top human talents.

After all, 12 years after the first Penang Bridge was open, there was a clear need for a second bridge.

Lim further asked: “If Hong Kong can have three under-seabed tunnels apart from its many bridges, why can’t Penang have just one tunnel? Further, building tunnels is better for the environment than bridges. If there is no problem with the two bridges in Penang, clearly there is no problem with a tunnel in Penang. Furthermore, when other BN states talk about building tunnels, it is not an issue but an issue in Penang.”

He also pointed out that an additional benefit would be to bring development to Seberang Perai Utara (SPU).
He said: “If Seberang Perai Tengah can be served by the first bridge and Seberang Perai Selatan by the second bridge, why should SPU be left out?”

SPU comprises three parliamentary seats and nine state seats, of which two parliamentary and six state seats are controlled by Umno.
By building the tunnel to develop SPU, the state government is demonstrating that every Penangite is treated fairly, including Umno strongholds.

“Why is the mainstream media opposed to the state government wanting to bring development and treat Umno supporters fairly?”