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Penang LRT project and its potential contributions

Penang LRT project and its potential contributions

PENANGITES can expect some good news after the Transport Ministry has been instructed to present a Cabinet memo on the Penang LRT (Light Rail Transport) project.


Transport Minister Anthony Loke recently disclosed that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had directed the ministry to submit the memo for Cabinet discussion and approval of the project’s implementation this year.


The proposed LRT route is expected to cover Bayan Lepas-Komtar-Tanjung Bungah-Air Itam- Butterworth-Kepala Batas-Simpang Ampat, with an estimated project cost of RM10 billion.


State executive councillor Zairil Khir Johari, who oversees the Infrastructure, Transport and Digital portfolio, said the Penang LRT project has been long awaited by the people of Penang.

Zairil says the state needs a robust public transport system

“Considering the escalating traffic congestion in the state, the Federal Government’s concern, particularly from the Transport Ministry, is greatly appreciated.


“We are also glad to know that the Federal Government will finance the Penang LRT project from Penang International Airport to Penang Sentral through Komtar.


“This demonstrates the spirit of mutual unity based on the principles of the Malaysia Madani government.


“This marks the largest allocation by the Federal Government for Penang’s public transport sector since the Pakatan Harapan government assumed leadership in Penang,” Zairil told Buletin Mutiara.


According to Zairil, the decision to extend Phase 1 of the line up to Seberang Perai is a prudent one, given Penang Sentral’s role as a multi-modal transport hub.


He expressed confidence that the project would contribute to the sustainability of the socio-economic development of the state.


“Establishing a robust public transport system is crucial for continuous economic growth, attracting investors and creating new job opportunities. This will have a positive impact on the development of the state in general.


“To ensure Penang maintains its position as the leading contributor to the national economy, especially in the electricity and electronics (E&E) sector, tourism and medical tourism, it is important that we get allocations to develop infrastructure, especially in transportation services,” he explained.


Zairil noted that the Penang LRT initiative aligns with the state government’s commitment to Sustainable Development Growth (SDG) and serves as a Green Transportation initiative.

Muhd Ghaddaffi says local businesses will be enhanced when the Penang LRT project is realised.

Muhd Ghaddaffi Sardar, the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) Penang director, shared that upon completion, the Penang LRT project is poised to provide substantial benefits for both domestic and foreign investments.


He said it would play a pivotal role in enhancing the economic landscape of the region.


“For domestic investment, firstly the LRT system is expected to stimulate economic activities along its routes, providing a conducive environment for local businesses to expand. SMEs operating near LRT stations may experience increased foot traffic and customer engagement, leading to business growth and profitability.


“Secondly, local businesses, especially those involved in the Industrialised Building System, maintenance and operation, will contribute to job and business creation in the region. This, in turn, strengthens the local economy and improves the overall socio-economic conditions.


“Thirdly, this project is likely to catalyse infrastructure development in its vicinity where local businesses, service providers and suppliers will have the opportunities to participate in this project. This is anticipated to foster growth in the local supply chain and related industries.


“Fourthly, the transfer of technology and expertise of international stakeholders to local companies will foster innovation and improve the ability of local talent,” he explained.


Speaking about the influx of foreign investment, Muhammad Ghaddaffi explained that foreign investors often prioritise regions that have excellent infrastructure and a network of facilities.


“The introduction of the LRT system in Penang will improve connectivity, making the region more accessible for business activities. This increased connectivity is likely to attract foreign companies seeking to establish a presence in Penang.


“The development of the LRT system also contributes to creating a more competitive business environment in Penang. Foreign investors may find the region more attractive due to the improved transportation options, making it easier to transport goods, access markets, and manage logistics efficiently.


“The upgraded infrastructure and economic vibrancy resulting from the LRT project make Penang a more attractive destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The region’s potential for growth and development, coupled with enhanced connectivity, positions it as a favourable investment location for multinational corporations and foreign investors seeking opportunities in Southeast Asia.


“So, yes, this LRT project will be a catalyst for economic growth in Penang as a whole,” he said.

Teh says the Penang LRT project will help the state retain or draw talents.

Cefinny Teh Jin Pei, the secretary (Northern Region) of the Malaysian Small and Medium Enterprises Association (SAMENTA), shared similar sentiments.


Teh suggested that, if the budget allows, the Federal Government should consider adopting the Bangkok Mass Transit System, commonly known as BTS Skytrain, for the Penang LRT project.


“They have three tiers, bottom tier for the motorcyclists and motorists, the second tier for pedestrians and the uppermost tier for the train. There’s valuable learning we can gather from the systems in Bangkok and Singapore.


“Bangkok has one of the worst traffic congestions in the world, but the BTS has significantly alleviated the issue there,” Teh said.


She added that the traffic congestion in Penang may discourage local talents from choosing to work in Penang.


“In Kuala Lumpur, the integrated public transport system has made it easier to travel from one destination to another.


“Some families may not have the means to purchase a car for their children in Penang after they graduate from universities and enter the workforce. Additionally, e-hailing services are not as affordable as they used to be.


“So, the Penang LRT project will undoubted play a crucial role in helping Penang retain or draw talents,” she added.

Khoo emphasises careful planning before and during the implementation of the Penang LRT project.

Datuk Khoo Boo Lim, the vice president of the Malaysian Hotel Association (MAH), expressed strong support for the Penang LRT project. However, he emphasised the need for careful planning to avoid prolonged jams during the implementation.


“The issue of traffic congestion, especially during peak hours or school holidays, has become synonymous with Penang.


“Things get even worse if there is an accident or a breakdown, especially on the Penang Bridge.


Commuters often face significant delays, and a lot of time is lost on the road. Most Malaysians visiting Penang prefer the convenience of driving themselves.


“For foreign tourists, for instance, staying at beach hotels in Batu Ferringhi and getting ‘stuck’ in traffic jams while going to places like Penang Hill in Air Itam is certainly not what they come for.


“So, the implementation of this LRT project is timely and will help reduce congestion in the state, which is expected to worsen with the increase of vehicles now.”


Story by K.H. Ong

Pix courtesy of interviewees

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