Leading transportation company Prasarana Malaysia Bhd plans to officially unveil its Penang ferry service in November, taking over the existing service through an ownership transfer process.
President and group chief executive officer of Prasarana, Datuk Seri Azmi Abdul Aziz, the takeover process is expected to be completed soon and the new ferry service known as RapidFerry will be soft launched next month.
Currently, the ferry service is being run by Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB), which privatised the service to Seaport Terminal Sdn Bhd. Since the advent of the Penang Bridge, the use of ferries to commute to Penang Island has lost its popularity. PPSB reported an annual loss of over RM21mil.
Azmi said Prasarana has already conducted an inspection of the ferry services and considered proposals to improve and reinvigorate its appeal. The group has also been given the green light from the Federal Government to take over the services.
Prasarana has already begun work on the project, he said, by studying the number of vessels operating, commuter safety standards and improving the environment for users.
“We are not waiting and have begun the groundwork. After an announcement on the official takeover, the ferry service will be managed by our subsidiary, RapidFerry Sdn Bhd,” Azmi added.
Prasarana’s chief believes the ferry is a unique mode of transport that can attract ridership, but this involves improving the overall experience.
Looking to reinstate Penang’s ferry service as a national icon, he said it should represent an attractive opportunity for tourists and even daily commuters, so the prime objective for now is to improve ridership numbers.
Additionally, Prasarana plans to integrate the ferry service with the Penang Sentral transportation hub alongside the train and Rapid bus services to create a more seamless commuting environment for users.
Of considerable historical significance to the state an country, the Penang ferry has been providing cross-strait services between George Town and Butterworth since 1894, making it oldest ferry service in Malaysia.
However, the pressures of modernisation saw the Penang Bridge introduced in 1985. It was reported then that the ferry service would incur a loss of RM700 for each trip.