Midnight strikes, and the ferry godfather can’t work his magic


Issues have gotten murkier than the waters close to the berthing space of the Raja Tun Uda ferry terminal in George City. Is the ferry service as we all know it ending on Dec 31 or not?

Sure, stated Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB), which takes over ferry operations from Prasarana. It has already put out posters that say the service will run from 6.30am to 11.30am each day, and that there might be no extra vehicular ferries.

In case you are a pedestrian and have to jump over to the opposite aspect previous midnight in an emergency, neglect about it. The times of 24-hour ferry companies are lengthy gone.

The fares stay the identical, even with the quick boats: RM1.20 for adults and 60 sen for kids and the disabled. All cross-channel companies from the island will now be on the Swettenham Pier cruise terminal.

That’s what PPSB stated.

The finance minister had a special take. He informed the Dewan Rakyat that the “iconic ferry service” would stick with it.

That has received everybody in knots, and never the type wherein the pace of boats is measured.

Did he say the long-lasting ferry “service” will proceed or did he imply the “iconic ferries” will proceed to be in service? I’m informed that the finance minister received it flawed and that, whether or not Penangites prefer it or not, the times of an gratifying and gradual trip throughout the channel on the previous boats are over.

The truth that former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng is attempting, in useless thus far, to pin Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong into confirming the finance minister’s promise, is evident proof that the change is inevitable.

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It actually was a trip to savour, the ocean breeze hitting your face, watching jellyfish floating lazily by and counting the container ships as they moved ever so slowly throughout.

As an alternative, there might be a claustrophobic trip in speedboats, no less than for the subsequent 18 months when the supposedly “extra comfy” water buses come alongside.

Penangites will miss the previous ferries very a lot. It has all the time been part of their lives, an unchanging function in a fast-changing world.

The ferry service was began in 1894 by former Penang Free Faculty boy Quah Beng Kee and his brothers, however the all-too-familiar vessels that we all know at this time solely began plying the channel someplace round 1957 with the m.v. Pulau Pinang as the primary of its class.

Throughout its heyday, the terminals have been all the time busy with a ferry coming in or leaving always, round the clock. Today, although, it’s often a protracted wait and, solely not too long ago, the service grew to become non-existent for an entire day.

The ferry trip as a hyperlink between island and mainland has certainly grow to be a tenuous one, as tenuous as the connection between all these concerned.

On the one hand, there’s Prasarana, a federal government-owned infrastructure entity that owns the ferry boats. On the opposite is PPSB, the corporate charged with operating the port. The 2 don’t appear to love working with one another.

To make issues worse, there’s the Penang state authorities which desires to maintain the long-lasting ferry boats in service however with water taxis and different issues thrown in. And neither of the primary two are working with the state authorities.

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You can name it a case of too many cooks spoiling the sloop, besides that these boats are far larger than sloops.

Name it wishful considering however I wish to see the three get collectively and maintain the present ferry boats in service, no less than for vacationers and the Penang diaspora. They may even have speedboats for these in a rush, and cost totally different charges for the 2 companies.

The query of value appears virtually moot. In spite of everything, PPSB desires to spend RM35,000 a month to lease pontoons simply to berth vessels from a Langkawi-based firm till the water buses come alongside in July 2022. Extra money might be wanted to lease these vessels within the first place. Some huge cash might be forked out.

Nothing good goes to come back out of this, I imagine.

For one, it’s going to be a nightmare for motorcyclists. PPSB goes to maintain one previous ferry boat operating for them however take into consideration this: in the event you miss the boat, you’ll have to wait an hour, no less than. That’s how lengthy it should take for that lone ferry boat to get to the opposite aspect and again.

No considering motorcyclist goes to attend. As a substitute, they’ll flood the bridge (or bridges).

Which brings us to a different drawback. The bridge is absolutely no place for older motorcyclists, particularly these on smaller kapcais, and at night time. Sturdy crosswinds and heavy visitors can result in accidents, which then result in nightmarish jams.

The motorists, too, are going to have it dangerous. With hundreds extra motorcyclists now on the bridge, visitors goes to be diminished to a crawl, except a devoted bike lane is about up in a rush on the primary bridge too.

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As issues are, bikes weave into the primary lane and small vehicles overtake on the emergency lane which doubles up because the bike lane.

Issues are already horrible sufficient each weekend when the Mat Rempits convey their races from the mainland, by the newer bridge, on to numerous components of the island and again to the mainland by way of the older bridge.

Lastly, after all, there’s the query of what’s going to occur to the massive swathes of land that can grow to be accessible on each side of the state?

Clearly, not a lot house might be wanted for foot passengers and motorcyclists to get on the brand new water buses.

These massive areas the place tons of of vehicles used to drive in and anticipate ferries might be sea-fronting land banks. I see a small fortune there. And scent a rat, too.


The views expressed are these of the author and don’t essentially replicate these of FMT.


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