The first phase of Penang’s RM6.34 billion tunnel project will kickstart construction by end of October, amid criticism on the cost and delay in the completion of the feasibility study, reported The Star.
Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd, the project’s main contractor, clarified that the master agreement signed on 2 August, indicated the Penang state government’s commitment to go ahead with the construction of the infrastructure works.
The project will consist of a tolled tunnel and three toll-free roads. Its first phase is the 5.7-km Ayer Itam-Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu bypass, costing around RM1.07 billion.
“The first phase, or what we call Package 2, is targeted to commence on or before 31 October this year. The construction period is 36 months from commencement,” said Consortium Zenith chairman Tan Sri Azmi Khalid.
“The construction cost of the Ayer Itam-Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu bypass will be RM851.04 million and the land acquisition will cost another RM220 million. So, that makes RM1.07 billion in total.”
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and many others have questioned the ongoing delay in the completion of the RM305 million feasibility study covering the infrastructure works.
Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow recently revealed that the study was only 90% complete.
Azmi explained that there has been a misunderstanding on the study’s progress.
“The feasibility study for the three major roads was completed on 26 January 2016 and the approval for the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment was received on 7 November 2017. As far as the three roads are concerned, the approvals are all settled.”
“What is still pending is the feasibility study for the undersea tunnel, which is only about 10% left. A major reason for the delay is because we were asked by the Penang state government to put the feasibility study on hold for more than a year, as they were negotiating with the-then Barisan Nasional federal government on whether to build a bridge instead of an undersea tunnel.”
He also said that another reason for the delay was the slow pace in completing the land reclamation, which will be used to pay Consortium Zenith.
The RM6.34 billion project cost is broken down into an estimated RM305 million for the feasibility study and detailed design, RM5.49 billion for construction and RM546 million for land acquisition.
When questioned about the financing for the Ayer Itam-Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu bypass, Azmi said that Malayan Banking Bhd would give global funding for the first phase.
For the construction of the Ayer Itam-Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu bypass, China Railway Construction Corp has been designated as the procurement, engineering and construction contractor.
The project manager for the first phase, on the other hand, is Buildmarque Construction Sdn Bhd.