Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Penang Ferry Service: Past and Present

Penang Ferry Service is the oldest ferry service in Malaysia. It too resembles an icon to the state of Penang. This famous ferry service began operation in 1920 under the management of a Chinese owned company. However, today, it is operated by Penang Port Sdn. Bhd. (PPSB) that has the concession to operate the port till 2023 under a privatisation agreement with the federal government. 

Located in the state of Penang, this famous ferry service connects Sultan Abdul Halim terminal in Butterworth and Raja Tun Uda terminal at Weld Quay, George Town in Penang Island. 

The ferry were designed for vehicles to roll on/roll off with two decks. Generally the pedestrian passengers would occupy the upper deck, fitted with pivoting benches and the lower deck for motor vehicles. 

In its glory days, the ferry runs a fleet of nine ferries named after the islands in Malaysia. The ferry was the main link of transportation until the Penang Bridge was commissioned in 1985, an alternative route in and out of the island. 

Then tragedy struck! On 31st July 1988, the Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal bridge collapse and 32 lives perished while 1, 674 people injured. The cause of the calamity…overcrowding of pedestrian passengers on the left passageway and the steel bar of the jetty giving way of the burdening weight. 

The ferry service though revived, however began to plunge into the reds. Several ferries were sold for scrap or purposes elsewhere. Since January 2016, PPSB introduced cutbacks on the number of ferries servicing the route to the dismay of the regular ferry commuters. 
For regular ferry commuters working on the island or the mainland, time is the utmost concerned. The reduced number of ferries had put them in a lurch; hurriedly to get to their destination or forced to wait the next trip. During peak hours or weekends and holiday seasons, motor vehicles would line in queues to the main road causing traffic jam. 

PPSB’s decision to operate three ferries in their effort to cut down costs due to the declining numbers of vehicles between the mainland and the island; increased intervals is not received well by the commuters. 

Other than the re-branding or rather re-imaging the ferries exterior with striking colors, is there anything else to be expected for the die-hard commuters?

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