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Sunday, June 29, 2008, 04.56 AM
World News

Penang's monorail and PORR projects: Not all dismayed by move
By : Comment by Sharanjit Singh
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GEORGE TOWN: The government's decision to defer the RM2 billion monorail and RM1.5 billion Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) projects has not been met with universal dismay on the island state.

While Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has blasted the decision and accused the Federal Government of doing it out of spite, others have been less angry.

Surprisingly, even the difficult-to-please Penang-based non-governmental organisations and public interest groups have been subdued in their reaction.

More shocking is that some are even overjoyed with the government's decision to defer both projects.

A blogger on Penang affairs has even gone on to post that "the scrapping of the PORR and monorail projects must be the best news all month... thank you PM (prime minister), thank you!"
Such reaction is understandable as PORR critics had always maintained that the proposed 17km tolled expressway from Tanjung Tokong to Gelugor, cutting across Gurney Drive was nothing but a bane.

Right from the outset, the PORR had faced opposition, mainly from environmentally-conscious NGOs, residents affected by the project and politicians.

Citing adverse environmental and social impacts, relocation of homes, graves and places of worship, and peaceful neighbourhoods being transformed into noisy, dusty areas, some NGOs and political parties went on a signature campaign to petition against the project in the 1990s.

To rally support, the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) printed T-shirts with anti-PORR messages as well as posters using the PORR acronym in slogans like "Don't PORR on Penang", and words like "dePORRable" and "imPORRsible".

Sahabat Alam Malaysia and the then opposition parties like the Penang DAP did not welcome the PORR.

They got unlikely support in the state assembly when MCA's Tan Cheng Liang (Jawi) and Lim Boo Chang (Datuk Keramat) abstained when it came to voting on the opposition motion to defer the PORR project in 2002.

All these critics of the PORR may be breathing a sigh of relief that it has been deferred indefinitely although the same cannot be said of the monorail project.

The latter was seen as a project which could be the ultimate solution to the island's traffic woes.

With the growing traffic in Penang, the monorail was sold to Penangites as a must-have project.

Its postponement places heavier onus on the state and Federal Government to do some serious planning and come up with a comprehensive plan to tackle the state's transportation issues.

It would be foolhardy to think that such a challenging task can be accomplished by one party alone.

While the Federal Government can provide back-up support, there are hopes that the state government would come up with a sustainable transport master plan for the whole of Penang.

Many feel the way to go for Penang is to radically improve the existing public transport services instead of pumping in billions constructing more roads.

The chief minister has acknowledged that Penang is going to have to look for ways to solve its traffic congestion.

It has taken the first step by looking into the setting up of a state-owned bus corporation to co-exist with RapidPenang, which has won over the hearts of Penangites with its services so far.

Just because the PORR and monorail projects have been deferred for now should not become an excuse for the state government to be derailed from improving the public transport sector.


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