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Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow (PH-Padang Kota) (second from right) at George Town, Penang today. Pix by Danial Saad

GEORGE TOWN: Penang has defended the need for the controversial Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1) although there is plan to implement the light rail transit (LRT).

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow (PH-Padang Kota), in his winding up speech at the state legislative assembly sitting today, said the shift from private vehicle to public transportation alone would not be able to solve the state’s traffic woes.

He said the shift would in fact not happen within a short period of time.

“This is because the increase in private vehicle ownership cannot be totally avoided although a quality and much improved public transportation is put in place.

“The increase in population and new developments will warrant new roads to be built, to be connected to the existing ones.

“As such, the construction of new roads is needed to accommodate the increase in the business, service and work activities,” he said.

The state government has come under much scrutiny following plans to the PIL 1, one of three highway projects planned for the state, under its highly-ambitious Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

Numerous protests have been held by Penangites and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), calling for the PIL 1 to be scrapped and for the PTMP, to be reviewed.

This morning, close to 100 concerned individuals came to the state legislative assembly building to voice their protest about the PIL 1.

They also demanded an independent review of the PTMP. This is the second protest in the past five days.

They also reminded Chow on how he had opposed the Barisan Nasional-mooted Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) in the past, when he was the opposition, but supported the PIL 1, an extended version of the PORR.

Acknowledging that the PTMP has become a hot topic after the state government announced the PIL 1, Chow said more in-depth studies were needed before the project kicks off.

“We will ensure that all guidelines are followed.

“I want to reiterate that the project is very much needed to divert and reduce traffic congestion on the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway and Jalan Masjid Negeri in future.

“We will ensure that the project will have minimal impact on the people and the environment by putting in place various mitigation plans,” he added.

Meanwhile, commenting on the LRT, Chow said he had written to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, seeking funding for the rail project.

“If we can get funding, then we will also request for interest-free loan. We hope for a favourable response,” he added.

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