Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said it was the Penang government who had written to him early last year, asking to approve a bridge to replace the tunnel project. Pix by Asyraf Hamzah

GEORGE TOWN: Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof has told the Penang government to leave him out in whatever game it is playing over the Penang Undersea Tunnel project .

This comes after state Public Works Committee chairman Lim Hock Seng told a press conference yesterday that it was Fadillah who had mooted the third bridge project idea (over the tunnel) as it would cost less.

In a media statement issued today, the Works Minister said it was the Penang government who had written to him early last year, asking to approve a bridge to replace the tunnel project.

He said the ministry's reply then was it could not approve major infrastructure projects without supporting documents.

"It was the state government who had promised that they will be sending the RM305 million studies for the tunnel and three paired roads projects, where RM220 million have been confirmed to have been paid by the state government, to me by the end of last year.

"It was also the state government who said that the studies were still incomplete and they would send it in by the middle of this year.

"And now, after multiple rounds of broken promises, it is also the state government who said they would not be sending the reports because there was no urgency for the project.

"Despite saying there is now no more urgency, the state government is again asking me to approve the project in principal without any supporting documents, which means we are back to square one," he said.

Fadillah said contrary to Lim's claim that it was him who asked the Penang government to change the tunnel to the bridge, he reminded the latter that it was the Penang Chief Minister who mooted the change and had written in, asking for the bridge to replace the tunnel.

He added that Lim should also be reminded of the reason why the state government suddenly mooted the change early last year.

"The state government was unable to withstand the scrutiny of Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications director Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who had asked why the state government was paying the full cost of construction for the tunnel but was still giving a 30-years toll concession to the contractors, a concession model that is unlike any in the country's history.

"The common practice is privatisation agreement’s is for the concession company to raise their own funding to build the project and then collect tolls to recover their investment and not for them to be fully paid to build a project and then be rewarded further with a 30-years concession agreement to collect even more money.

"Therefore, to deflect these serious claims, the Penang government suddenly and very abruptly said they wanted to change to a bridge despite defending the tunnel and the 30-years concession over the years," he pointed out.

Lim, had at the press conference, said the state government had repeatedly asked if they could get the principal approval from the ministry, but all they got was a demand for feasibility studies, instead.

On Monday, Fadillah had questioned the delay in submitting the undersea tunnel feasibility study report to him.

He had said that he found the delay in submitting the feasibility report and the detailed design studies "very unusual" as the project was awarded in April 2013 and RM220 million had been paid by the Penang government to the contractors via land swap.

He had also said that the chief minister had written to him in April last year, asking for the RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel project to be changed to a third bridge project.

He added that after some initial hesitancy, the chief minister then gave the excuse that the studies were 83 per cent completed and promised that it would be completed by the end of last year and sent to the ministry.

Fadillah said that did not happen and when asked about the delay in March this year, the chief minister had said it was still only 87 per cent completed and promised that they would submit the report in six months, a deadline which had passed.

Responding to Fadillah's claims, Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (Zenith) senior executive director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli had said yesterday that the undersea tunnel feasibility study report had finally reached 92.9 per cent completion, some 30 months after it started.

He however said they would focus on completing the undersea tunnel project feasibility study only after the Lebuhraya Air Itam - Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu and North Coastal Paired Road projects start.

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