Stop me if you’ve already heard this one: there’s plan to build a 120km bridge linking Melaka and Sumatra. That’s right, across the busiest shipping lane in this part of the world. A most mega of megaprojects.
It all sounds more than a little far fetched, of course, but you know, anything’s possible with a ‘Malaysia Boleh!’ attitude.
Bridge From Melaka To Sumatra – Sure, Why Not?
The story emerged late last week when Bernama broke the news, in which Ab Rauf Yusoh, chairman of the Melaka Investment, Industry, Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Committee spoke keenly on the proposed development.
Specifically, it will connect the two countries from Telok Gong in Masjid Tanah, Melaka on the Malaysian side with Dumai in Riau, Sumatra, Indonesia. The proposal itself has been submitted by the private sector with both countries already having agreed to entertain a detailed feasibility study.
20 Years, RMxxx Billion For?
Yusoh added that its construction, which is estimated to be over a period of 20 years, will have major economic impacts on both countries. Positive impacts, we hope he meant…
During an interview with a radio station in Melaka, he also said: “On the part of the state government, we have brought all government agencies to visit the area where the proposed new route will be built yesterday.”
In addition to the bridge construction itself, the project would involve the construction of other infrastructure including traffic dispersal areas, immigration and customs complexes, and a surrounding industrial area near Masjid Tanah covering around 2,000 hectares.
Concerns have been raised almost immediately calling into the question the need for such a bridge/tunnel combo. At 120km, it would easily rank among the largest/longest manmade structures over sea water.
Again, this is somehow to be built without disrupting one of the world’s busiest and most important shipping lanes.
We shudder to imagine the dozens, maybe even hundreds of billions of Ringgit needed to be set aside to begin such a project, not counting the unforeseen billions required to see it to completion.
Spend On Local Fixes First
Meanwhile, there are daily examples of how Malaysia’s own road network is severely lacking in quality, a result of neglect and poor upkeep, or just shoddy construction. One has to wonder if the economic benefit is worth diverting so much resources when more pressing matters continue to persist.
While Melaka is nicely sandwiched in between Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru (and into Singapore), there’s very little of interest near Dumai in Sumatra, which has a population of just 300,000. Where will all the traffic be coming from?
The nearest major city from there is Pekanbaru, which has a population of just 1.12 million. Further afield there’s Medan with some 2.4 million inhabitants. Unfortunately, it is also an inconvenient 12 hour drive away. Anyone with sense will just take a flight to KL or elsewhere.
An obvious retort here is to claim that the majority of traffic will be from vehicles transporting goods with the bridge providing an uninterrupted flow of trade between the two countries. However, one still has to wonder if the advantage is significant enough over a fully loaded cargo sea vessel.
Either way, with an estimated construction time of 20 years or more, it wouldn’t be ready until 2042 should the project commence tomorrow and who knows when it might actually get off the ground. One only needs to glance at the stalled KL-Singapore HSR project or even the often-delayed Pan Borneo highway to realise that Malaysia hasn’t had the best track record lately.