MALAYSIA’s transport minister, Mr Anthony Loke Siew Fook, says construction will commence on the Penang LRT Mutiara Line project on Penang Island later this year, with the SRS Consortium likely to complete the first section of the light metro line.

The Malaysian government has assumed responsibility for the project from the Penang state government and Loke confirmed during a press conference on March 29 that he expects the line to take six years to complete, as reported by The Edge Malaysia.

Loke says that the initial section of the project will retain the same alignment identified in studies undertaken by the state government and he expects acquisition of land for the project “to be relatively minimal.” One of the conditions for the federal government to take over the project was to reduce the amount of land reclamation required to build Silicon Island at the southern end of the line to a “single island” compared with the three originally proposed. Land reclamation work commenced in October.

The first section of the 29km project will run from Silicon Island to Komtar. SRS, a consortium of Gamuda (60%), Loh Phoy Yen Holdings (20%) and Ideal Property Development (20%), worked as project development partner for the Penang Transport Master Plan under a contract awarded in 2015. This work included the LRT project. Loke confirmed that to avoid complicating the matter, the government has offered SRS the contract to execute civil works for the first section under a single-source Request for Proposals (RFP) mechanism, as requested by the Penang state government.

Loke says he expects negotiations to be concluded within six months. “If we don’t appoint them, there will probably be a legal issue with the Penang state government,” he says.

Loke says state-owned company MRT will act as the project developer and asset owner for the new line, including negotiating the terms of the contract with SRS. MRT is the future operator of the Johor Bahru - Singapore Rapid Transit Link and also operates the Putrajaya and Kajang light metro lines in Kuala Lumpur.

The Mutiara Line

The Mutiara Line in Penang is expected to have 20 stations and will connect Silicon Island and the southern suburbs of George Town with the city centre, offering key south-north connectivity in the densely-populated area in the east of Penang Island.

The second section from Komtar to Penang Sentral will be subject to an open tender, with both international and local companies expected to participate. This section includes a bridge across the Penang Strait to Penang Sentral station, an amendment to the alignment introduced by the federal government.

The third element is a turnkey contract for systems and rolling stock, which will be offered on a build-maintain-transfer basis.

The Malaysian government has set aside Ringgits 10bn ($US 2.1bn) for the project in its 2024 budget, although Loke says it is “too early” to disclose the budget for the first phase of the project.

The project was proposed as long ago as 2012 by the Penang state government in its transport masterplan, and was adopted by the state in 2016. The Malaysian cabinet approved the Mutiara Line on March 22.

A map showing the new Penang strait alignment. Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Angys

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