CM calls for abolition of Penang Bridge toll

(The Sun) Penang commemorated the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Penang Bridge today with the state government calling for the abolition of toll for its use.

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Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said  profits from the toll rates have far exceeded the original construction cost of about RM750 million.

“Since you have made up for the construction costs, we hope you can abolish the toll rate,” he said at a press conference. I believe they (the concessionaire) have already made more than RM1 billion in profits.”

Since Aug 15, 1993, Penang Bridge Sdn Bhd (PBSB), a subsidiary of UEM Group Bhd, has been managing, operating, upgrading and collecting toll for the bridge under a 25-year concession agreement that expires on May 31, 2018.

The bridge was built by UEM Bhd together with Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company (Korea) Ltd .

When the 13.5km bridge was opened in Sept 1985, it was the world’s third longest, and today it handles more than 100,000 vehicles daily, Lim noted.

Lim also hailed the contribution of “unsung local heroes” behind the bridge, like engineers Tan Sri Prof Chin Fung Kee and Liaw Yew Peng.

“The construction costs were initially budgeted at RM850 million but final costs were RM100 million lower,” he said, crediting the engineers for their innovative measures.

“Prof Chin’s various innovative design features such as the use of rubber pads to take care of seismic loading were wisely adopted elsewhere,” he added.

He also said the nine workers who lost their lives during the construction should be remembered for their work and sacrifice.

Earlier, Lim held a meeting with Tenaga Nasional Bhd CEO Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohamad Noh on the incident last Saturday where three TNB cables under the bridge caught fire.

He said TNB had agreed to make public its findings on the cause of the fire.

He said the damaged 150m-long sections of the cables are expected to be replaced by November at a cost of RM5 million.

He added that there was a need for a crisis management plan in the event such an accident recurred, with increased coordination with the cross-channel ferry services run by Penang Port.