GEORGE TOWN: Piling works for the first project under the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) is expected to begin near the end of 2017. Penang Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the target was to get the relevant approvals in early 2017 with work anticipated to start by the end of that year. He said the studies on three projects – the Komtar to Bayan Lepas Light Rail Transit (LRT), Pan Island Link (PIL) and the Penang Smart Reclamation (PSR) – were being conducted. Chow said the studies being conducted now were scheduled for completion by the middle of this year, noting that PSR needed to be submitted by June to make the National Physical Planning Council deadline. He said the Council, chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, will meet in November this year, adding that approval was needed from the Council for the PSR to go ahead. "If the approvals are obtained, we then can work on the technical aspects as well as finalise the design," he said in a media briefing on the PTMP today. The RM27 billion PTMP is an ambitious undertaking to link Penang Island and the mainland with rail transit systems, new highways, trams, rapid bus routes and water taxis. Funding the massive project hinges on the proposal to reclaim some 1,618ha of land off the southern coast of Penang island. Approval for the reclamation has to be from the federal government as reclamation of more than 100ha must be referred to the Council per the Town and County Planning Act 1976. SRS Consortium was appointed by the Penang government last year as the Project Delivery Partner (PDP) to ensure the PTMP materialises. On the funding mechanism, Penang Local Government Division chief engineer Lim Thean Heng said the finer details are still being worked on. He said businesses are interested to see the funding architecture and how they can participate in the PTMP "Those interested are from Germany, China, Hong Kong, Japan, France, (South) Korea and many others," he added. On concerns of fishermen being affected by the reclamation, Chow said more engagement and briefing sessions will be held. He said the PDP was also exploring collaboration avenues with vocational colleges to provide relevant courses for fishermen and villagers. "Those who complete their courses will be certified by the vocational college and will be able to work either for the Bayan Lepas LRT, PIL or PSR project," he said.