GEORGE TOWN: Penang is hoping that the free public stage bus service which starts next month will be the temporary solution to the worsening traffic congestion in the state. While the state continues to pursue mega infrastructure projects such as the RM6.3 billion cross-channel undersea tunnel, which is part of the Penang Transport Masterplan, it is providing free bus rides to ease traffic congestion. The Congestion Alleviation Transport (CAT) free bus service is scheduled to be launched on April 1 in 12 major areas, targeting existing bus users, new commuters, students, blue-collar workers and tourists. State executive councillor in charge of traffic management Chow Kon Yeow said it will help to scale down the congestion that Penangites face daily. CAT covers six areas on the island and six areas on the mainland. The areas are Tanjung Tokong, George Town, Ayer Itam, Sungai Dua, Bayan Baru, Balik Pulau, Seberang Jaya, Batu Kawan, Bertam, Bukit Mertajam, Alma and Nibong Tebal. The effort to realise the free bus service started in 2014 and Prasarana-owned Rapid Penang has been working with the state government on it. In a briefing here recently, Chow announced the CAT was in his speech when debating the Budget 2018. He urged Penangites to utilise this free service. Rapid Penang senior manager Osman Amir said Rapid Penang is using the 'Hub & Spoke' concept to allow buses to pass through all the stops at a higher frequency, cover areas that have no prior bus service and increase the usage of public transportation. Osman said Rapid Penang is contributing 52 buses to CAT and the operating hours are from 6am to 10pm. He added that designated bus routes have been planned with many point of interest in the route such as schools, hospitals, markets, shopping centres and government offices.