Penang to ease island's transport woes

Sky Cab cable car will link Penang Sentral Hub in Butterworth to George Town 17.5km, RM4.5b LRT line will connect Komtar in town to international airport in five to six years

GEORGE TOWN - Penang is planning a Sky Cab cable car link to the mainland as well as its first Light Rail Transit (LRT) system connecting Komtar to the airport, as part of a massive project to ease growing congestion on the Malaysian island.

Crossing from George Town to Butterworth and vice versa will be a mere 15-minute scenic ride when a 3km cable car system is up and ready in about three years.

The proposed system would link the Penang Sentral Transportation Hub in Butterworth to Nordin Street Ghaut in George Town, said Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng on Wednesday.

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"The Penang Sky Cab project is at an advanced exploratory stage, and if everything goes according to the technical specifications, we should be able to go on board in 2018," he said, adding that it is an initiative of the state government and Penang Sentral.

On the need for the link, he said: "At the island's southern side, we have the second bridge, followed by the first bridge, but we only have the ferry service to connect both mainland and island at the northern side of the island.

"We feel that one more form of travel will decrease the dependence on automobiles."

The link would be able to cater to up to 1,000 passengers per hour in each direction.

Penang Sentral property and retail division senior vice-president Shireen Mohd Iqbal said the cable car would be 90m above sea level with 50m between the pylons, and eight or nine towers spaced about 500m apart.

"An observatory tower is also being considered," she added.

Mr Lim added that with the implementation, Penang Sentral would become a five-in-one travel hub offering taxi, bus, rail, ferry and Sky Cab service.

The proposed 17.5km LRT line is aimed at bringing relief to the island's choked roads as more people are expected to switch from driving to taking the LRT.

The RM4.5 billion (S$1.7 billion) project will mark the realisation of the long-awaited implementation of the RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan. This includes building a 25km expressway linking Bayan Lepas, where the Penang International Airport is, and Tanjung Bungah, a seaside suburb between Gurney and Batu Feringghi.

Mr Chow Kon Yeow, chairman of the Penang Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee, said the LRT - which will be supported by a revamped bus system - would be a priority, with its completion targeted for five to six years.

Six consortiums - three Malaysian public listed companies and three foreign-Malaysian partnerships - are bidding for the master plan project.

The consortium awarded the project will also win the right to reclaim 1,618ha at either the southern part of the island, of which about 485ha will be used for the future expansion of the airport and to expand the Free Industrial Zone, or at a 607ha stretch between Penang Bridge and the mouth of Sungai Pinang, an area popularly known as Middle Bank.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK