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Friday, April 25, 2008

Penang mulls monorail option

State government wants to speed up project and is seriously considering Melewar’s proposal, says source

MEGA PLAN: Tunku Yaacob (left) presenting Melewar’s proposal to Lim

PENANG may carry out a monorail project on its own to speed things up and not wait for the federal government to do it, a source said.

The state government is seriously considering a proposal which was presented to them by the Melewar Industrial Group (MIG) this week.

However, the federal government, via Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd, has given a letter of intent to another group of companies in January.

"Melewar's interest is a reflection that the private sector has confidence in dealing with an opposition-led state and the DAP-PKR-led state leadership is delighted," a source told Business Times.

"This interest marks the first major step towards the realisation of the monorail project in Penang and the state government is not likely to allow this opportunity for a privately-funded project to slip," the source said.

The timing of MIG''s presentation of the RM2.2 bil monorail system for Penang is said to be good for the state, in light of the federal government's move to review certain mega projects that had been previously promised to the state under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

During a presentation to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his executive council on Tuesday, MIG managing director and chief executive officer Tunku Datuk Yaacob Tunku Abdullah said the proposed system will boast a 12-car train of monorail and can move 17,600 passengers per hour.

He said the system, covering a 52km track, is set to operate on a single line and run on three different loops from locations like Gelugor, Farlim in Air Itam and Gurney Drive into the city.

It is learnt that the state government is keen on Melewar's proposition, as the state would not need to allocate funds for the project.

"All the state authorities need is to look into the land acquisition process and how it can speed things up to ensure the monorail project, which has been promised to the people of Penang for so many years, actually becomes a reality," a source noted.

MIG is one of several parties which participated in a tender exercise for the development of a monorail system for Penang on November 14 last year which was called by SPNB.

In January this year, SPNB awarded a letter of intent for the project to Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd, which had formed a consortium with Penang Port Sdn Bhd and Scomi Engineering Bhd.

When contacted yesterday to enquire the status of the monorail project for Penang, SPNB chief executive officer Shaipudin Shah Haron declined comment.

Industry executives when contacted on the viability of a privately-funded monorail system for Penang, cautioned that the option by the state authorities to open tenders for the project could involve a minimum of 12 months before a new tender process can be closed.

"This is because a study will need to be carried out on the proposed corridor for the transit system, along with an engineering study to identify where the system is to be built," the official said.

Also being questioned is how much land the state government will give away to the company which constructs the system, added to the risk of ownership of the transit system which would belong to the state government.

By New Straits Times (by Sharanjit Singh and Marina Emmanuel)

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