Malaysia Bagus News
Malaysia Bagus News
GEORGE TOWN: A proposed rail link to connect the future Kulim airport to Butterworth in mainland Penang will benefit the state immensely, according to two transport experts who say it would boost the economy by connecting major towns along its path.
Ahmad Hilmy Abdul Hamid of Universiti Sains Malaysia said Penang should seize the opportunity and see the new rail links as a potential big boost to its economy, not as a threat.
He said the position of Penang airport was unlikely to be shaken by regional airports as it is the third busiest after Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu airports.
Hilmy said the rail link, if it came to fruition, would ultimately connect thousands along its path crossing the breadth of Seberang Perai.
However, old track-based railway systems should ideally be dumped for modern, cheaper Autonomous Rail Transit systems or trackless trams, like the ones in Iskandar Johor, which were also quicker to build and start, he said.
The proposed rail link came to attention when the draft of the 2030 Seberang Perai local plan was released, showing a provision for a rail route from Butterworth to Kulim, with stops in Bukit Mertajam and Machang Bubok, and a bus rapid transit system with four lines across the mainland, one of which would also serve as an airport transfer to Kulim.
However, the Seberang Perai City Council (MBSP) has since updated the draft local plan with all mention to Kedah or Kulim removed.
Kulim is important to Penang as a border town
Hilmy said Penang should not be afraid of Kulim and consider the town to be important to the state’s growth.
He said like any border town, there was work and families on either side, fuelling growth on both sides.
“You cannot put a wall to separate Seberang Perai and Kulim,” he said of MBSP’s removal of references to Kulim in the draft 2030 Seberang Perai local plan.
“Penang cannot be the only place to monopolise everything. We must look forward see the bigger picture, where the national population is set to grow by 2030,” he said.
Hilmy, who has worked on the Kulim district local plan in 2004 as a transport adviser, said rail links had already been proposed from Kulim town to Sidam Kiri, the location of the proposed low-cost airport. “Naturally, a link from Seberang Perai to Kulim would be beneficial for all, not just Kulim,” he said.
Another USM academic, Ahmad Farhan Mohd Sadullah, said the proposed Kulim airport would bring healthy competition to Penang, with both airports racing to provide the best service for all users.
Farhan said many cities had two airports that co-existed without much trouble, such as Haneda and Narita in Tokyo, and Gatwick and Heathrow in London.
He said these airports allowed dispersal of passengers, so as to avoid over-concentration of travellers going to an already congested area.
“If we view this from a sustainability angle, a second air terminal will be good. Penang airport can focus on providing better levels of services, be it first-class retail, seamless travel and reliability. We cannot deny others and must remain competitive,” he said.
Farhan said ideally, there should be a network of new rail lines covering Seberang Perai, Kulim and Sungai Petani so as to tap into larger corridors of the economy.
“Public transport corridors in urban areas are critical. We are over-developing our land and transport corridors are always an afterthought.
“And this will make public transport more expensive in the future.
“The Penang experience is a good example. We will continue to be deprived of good public transport as the financing issues cannot be resolved,” he said.
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