29 August, 2010
Second Penang bridge on course
By CHRISTINA CHIN
The sound of piling work on the new Penang bridge can be music to the
ears, given its promise of smoother traffic.
WITH the Raya exodus poised to begin over the next few days, those headed for
Penang are wont to sigh at the thought of traffic snarls in and around the island.
There was a time when crossing from Butterworth to George Town (and vice versa)
entailed hours of sweating in the car, waiting for slow-mo ferries to transport vehicles across the narrow
The 13.5km Penang Bridge, which opened to traffic in September 1985, brought
welcome relief as it enabled traffic to zoom straight into Gelugor from Seberang Perai.
But over the years, traffic has built up again, especially with the latter area
seeing a spate of growth recently. And come festive season, it’s back to the gridlock as hordes rush to
An artist’s impression of the new 24km link, which mirrors the existing Penang bridge in design.
Well, Penangites and visitors to the Pearl of the Orient will have to be patient
for a few more years, as the Second Penang Bridge is scheduled to roll out only in 2013. With the new link,
island-bound traffic will be able to flow from Batu Kawan in Seberang Perai, to Batu Maung on the other
The update from Penang Public Works, Utilities and Transportation Committee
chairman Lim Hock Seng is that more than 50% of piling work on the 24km second bridge has been completed. Casting
of the segmental box girdle is in full swing and contracts for the land road developments have been
Overall, more than 25% of the mega project is done. It’s now time to go into full
swing to make sure that the bridge is ready by September 2013, Lim says.
“Yes, the first Penang Bridge was expanded, but by 2012, traffic will again exceed
its capacity. Now, we have 64,000 vehicles using the bridge daily – and that’s just one way. We’re expecting 80,000
vehicles in two years.
“We need the second bridge to divert at least 25% of the traffic from the first
bridge. By the time the signages are ready and the tests and trial runs conducted, it will probably only be open to
traffic early 2014.”
Lim admits that the state government does not have any power to ensure that the
project is delivered on time, but he thinks the companies responsible will not risk having to pay liquidated
damages which could amount to “tens of thousands (of ringgit) per day” to the federal government for any
“The state gvernment can only monitor the cost and progress closely. Any delay
will cause the cost to balloon from its estimated RM4.5bil.” Ultimately, it will be Penangites and other motorists
who will have to bear the increase in the cost, through higher tolls, he says.
A UEM staff briefing Lim Guan Eng (right) at the Batu Kawan casting yard, during an inspection by the
Penang Chief Minister last year.
In June, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said in Parliament that come
2013, the toll rate for the second bridge would be RM1.90 for motorcycles; RM9.40 for cars, taxis and two-axle vans
(except MPVs); RM16.20 for two-axle lorries, which include pick-ups and MPVs, and RM33.60 for vans, buses and
Currently, the toll for cars plying the Penang Bridge is RM7.
The second bridge project comprises three main packages: construction of the
sub-structure by CHEC Construction Sdn Bhd (the local arm of China Harbour Engineering Co Ltd); casting of the
segmental box girdle by UEM Builders Bhd; and construction of the Batu Kawan and Batu Maung exit and entry points
and trumpet interchange by Cergas Murni, IJM Construction and HRA Teguh.
Package one includes piling and the building of pile caps, columns and the
Lim says as of April this year, over 13% of this package has been completed “but
CHEC will have to play catch up now because of delays caused when the company had to amend its pile caps and
columns design to ensure that they can withstand an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale.
“Although big vessels will not be allowed to pass under the bridge, they must take
into account the possibility of shipping accidents,” he says, adding that dredging work is almost done. Dredging is
necessary to enable barges and machinery to access the site as the waters are too shallow.
Heavy machinery in operation at the bridge site at Seberang Perai.
The most difficult part of CHEC’s work is putting on the piling caps, he
UEM has started casting more than 8,000 segmental box girdles and almost 20% of
package two has been completed, as of April too.
As for package three, the contractors have their hands full with preliminary work,
including setting up offices in Penang, mobilising their machinery and conducting land surveys.
Contracts for the construction of the toll plazas have yet to be awarded and the
state has called on all the main contractors involved to engage Penang-based sub-contractors and to source for
The second bridge, which will have a lifespan of 120 years, mirrors the first in
design. Initially, there were plans for two viewing platforms, complete with restaurants, but that was scrapped due
to a lack of funds. The platforms would have added another RM600mil to the costs.
A common scene as motorists head towards Penang island during festive periods. The new link is expected to
reduce traffic on the existing bridge by about 25%.
The cost factor has also put the brakes on additional lanes to meet increasing
traffic volume, down the road.
“Just like the first bridge, additional piling must be done if we want to expand
the second bridge,” Lim says.
The first bridge has been widened from two to three lanes each way (except for the
centrespan). The third lane opened in August last year.
To accommodate future expansion, additional piling should be done from the start.
However, the cost of putting in place piling that allows for such expansion is equivalent to building
one-and-a-half bridges, he estimates.
In an even more ideal scenario, the foundation piling of the Second Penang Bridge
should accommodate a Light Rail Transit (LRT).
“In 10 to 30 years, an LRT could prove very important, especially if we can
successfully promote the park and ride system of using public transportation. No doubt the investment will be great
but it is very necessary,” says Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan, former State Local Government and Traffic Committee
Dr Teng notes that Penang’s economy has been booming since the 90s, thanks to its
“We were transforming from a low-capital, high-labour economy to one that was low
in human resource but high in capital investment. There was a need for better infrastructure and amenities such as
power and water supply. Flooding problems and traffic jams had to be solved.
“Connectivity between the island and mainland was a big concern because in case
anything were to happen on the existing bridge, it would be disastrous for the MNCs, especially with new industrial
parks in Juru and Bukit Minyak coming up,” he explains.
It was decided that a second bridge would be that vital link, besides being “a
lifeline for the state’s economy”. When completed, the bridge will “instil confidence in multi-national companies
to expand their existing operations in the state, and attract new private investments,” Dr Teng says.
Initially, a Japanese company proposed a link between Tanjung Tokong on the island
and Bagan on the mainland. It was rejected, for several reasons.
“The Japanese proposal was for an underwater tunnel and a bridge link, but they
wanted to handle everything themselves, from the design and contractors to the material supplies. Furthermore, the
sites of the link were already developed; we didn’t think the tunnel-bridge could add any value to these
locations,” he adds.
So the planners looked south to Batu Maung, a relatively underdeveloped enclave
compared to the rest of the island. Across the straits, Batu Kawan looked ideal to draw development to the south of
The proposal for the new bridge was approved by the federal government in 2004 and
construction finally commenced on in November 2008, after months of delay caused by land acquisition
Other grouses have surfaced since. In June this year, some 80 inshore fishermen in
Kampung Changkat voiced unhappiness that mid-sea dredging by contractors at the second bridge construction site had
affected marine life in the area.
They claimed that their catch had dropped drastically in the last 10 years, after
the Pulau Burung sanitary landfill opened nearby. The situation has worsened since the bridge project started, they
The fishermen said they could hardly make RM10 per catch daily compared to nearly
RM200 per catch daily previously.
A Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM) report states that piling,
dredging and landfill works, environment pollution and the movement of ships and boats in the area have all
contributed to the dwindling catch.
State Agriculture, Rural Development and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Law
Choo Kiang says the state government meets periodically with the fishermen’s association, LKIM and Fisheries
Department to gather the information on this issue.
“Jambatan Kedua Sdn Bhd (JKSB) has also been instructed to complete a Fishery
Impact Assessment and to follow every guideline set by the various technical departments including the Department
of Environment, Land Office and LKIM and others.”
However, Law adds that dwindling catch is also a problem worldwide and cites
climate change, water and sea pollution and lack of awareness of environmental protection as some of the factors
He “welcomes” federal government assistance to help with the ex-gratia payment
proposed by LKIM and the Fisheries Department for fishermen and aquaculture owners affected by the second bridge.
“We would like the federal government and JKSB to deal with this urgently.
“LKIM and the Fisheries Department have taken steps to alleviate the situation by
placing artificial corals at Kendi Island and Gedung Island at a cost of RM400,000. Muka Head will be next,” he
-- The Star --