GEORGE TOWN: The iconic Penang ferries, put out to pasture as of today, could be back in action if Pakatan Harapan retakes the federal government, Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng said today.
Claiming that the axing of the ferries was a political move, he said the open-decked ferries will likely come back if there was a change in Putrajaya.
He criticised Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong and his party, MCA, for being “resolute” in retiring the iconic vessels, despite it being part of Penang’s heritage and culture.
“This is a sad day. I think we should not lose heart because of the heartless. What we need is a change of government in Putrajaya.
“We need to change the transport minister from Wee to Loke Siew Fook,” he said, referring to the Seremban MP, who was the transport minister before the fall of the Pakatan Harapan government in February this year.
Lim said that when he was finance minister, he allocated a RM30 million cash grant to a company that was taking over the ferry services, which he said was confirmed by his successor Tengku Zafrul Aziz in Parliament recently.
He said all the talk about the old open-deck ferries being unsafe and costly were without basis. The RM30 million would have easily covered any repairs and maintenance.
“We are not asking to run all 10 old ferries, but at least to retain two to cross the channel. Even with reduced intervals, it is fine. We are not against the catamarans but feel that the old and new ferries should run alongside each other.
“No words can describe our sense of loss, because this is not only our cultural heritage, it is a piece of Penang history. It is a symbol of Penang, it is part of our soul that has been taken away, ‘dirobek’ (gutted),” he said.
The old ferries will only be available for two-wheelers from tomorrow. Cars will no longer be able to use the ferry while pedestrians will have to take speedboats from the Swettenham Pier.
In July 2022, three new water buses will operate from the original ferry terminals on the island for pedestrians while two lighters are also expected to operate to ferry motorcycles.