Director General's Message
The Second Penang Bridge – MRB’s Significant Role
March 1st 2014, marks a historic day for Malaysia as the nation witnessed the launching of yet another national icon, the Second Penang Bridge. Billed as the longest bridge in Southeast Asia, the 24km link will serve as a second crossing to the Pearl of the Orient. The Second Penang Bridge, launched by Prime Minister YAB Datuk Seri Najib Razak also holds the distinction of being the longest bridge in the world that uses High Damping Natural Rubber Bearing, enabling it to withstand far field earthquakes measuring more than 7.5 on the Richter scale.
Being a major transportation hub, Penang also known as the Pearl of the Orient has witnessed a fast economic growth over the past 15 years. The traffic flow to the island has reached 65,000 vehicles per day. Despite the existing Penang Bridge has been expanded, the number of vehicles are expected to rise to over 80,000 vehicles per day. It is imminent that the existing Penang Bridge will not be able to cope with the manifold increase of traffic volume.
The construction of the Second Penang Bridge is aimed to alleviate the current overloaded traffic at the existing bridge and to meet the future traffic demand, apart from being the key catalyst for the sosio-economic development in the region. The bridge is expected to reduce traffic on the First Penang Bridge by 20% and will transform Penang into key logistics and transportation hub for the northern region of Malaysia under the Northern Corridor Economic Region programme and Growth Triangle comprising Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
The RM4.5 billion Second Penang Bridge officially launched on 1st March 2014 and named Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge is a dual carriageway toll bridge that connects Batu Kawan on the mainland to Batu Maung on the Penang Island. It is the second bridge to link the island to the mainland after the Penang bridge. The total length of the bridge is 24 km with length over water at 17 km, making it the longest bridge in Malaysia and the longest in South East Asia and is the world’s largest structure on High Damping Natural Rubber bearings (HDNR). The use of such bearings will ensure that it is fully protected in the event of any major earthquake in the area.
Construction of the Bridge with HDNR Bearings
The construction of the Second Penang Bridge began in 2008 and was successfully completed in 2014. Although Malaysia may not be exposed directly by the earthquake but we are definitely affected by it as can be seen by the Tsunami that hit Aceh on 24 December 2004. We were 500 kilometers away from the Sumatran epicenter but Penang was hit and 68 deaths were reported with 52 in Penang, 12 in Kedah, three in Perak and one in Selangor.
During its initial design, no impact of earthquakes was considered and by 2007 the final design using mechanical bearings was agreed. Subsequently the piling work started in early 2007. By early 2010 and after seismic analysis it was realised that the bridge would collapse during earthquakes of the size expected in the location due to the fact that the piling was not strong enough. The bridge designer has two solutions: strengthen the piling or use seismic rubber bearings. The first option would increase the cost of the bridge construction significantly and lengthen the construction period. On the other hand the use of high damping natural rubber seismic bearings would incur no increase in cost but more importantly it will prevent the bridge from collapsing. The use of such bearings will ensure that it is fully protected in the event of any major earthquake in the area.
This first commercial project in Malaysia makes the Second Penang Bridge the world’s largest structure installed with HDNR bearings. These bearings provide the maximum protection against far field earthquakes and provide a simple and economical isolation system. It possesses the low horizontal stiffness needed and are capable of safely withstanding the large horizontal displacements imposed during an earthquake. The HDNR seismic bearings used in the project are the result of pioneering research at the Malaysian Rubber Board’s Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre (TARRC) in United Kingdom. The HDNR bearings were designed by TARRC and their manufacture and testing was carried out at the Doshin Rubber factory in Klang, Selangor under the supervision of the Rubber Technology Centre (RTC), the Malaysian Rubber Board’s research centre. The design of the bearings and their quality control procedures comply with the European seismic standard EN 1998 Eurocode 8. During the course of the project close collaboration between the Malaysian structural engineers and the MRB research officers provided an opportunity for transfer of base isolation technology, so that Malaysian bridge engineers can offer this expertise to other seismic areas of the world.
The launching of the iconic Second Penang Bridge is a historic moment for Malaysian Rubber Board as we provided the supervision and technical aid in the manufacturing and testing of the high damping rubber bearings in the construction of the bridge. It is also a major milestone as it is the first commercial project in Malaysia to adopt the technology of HDNR bearings to protect structures from earthquakes.
The bridge with a length of 24 kilometres, 17 kilometres across the sea from the mainland and 7 kilometres is the longest bridge in Southeast Asia. The rubber bearings were produced by a local manufacturer and more than 2000 rubber bearings were used. With the bridge’s construction as an exemplar, it is hoped that more bridges around the world’s seismic regions would be encouraged to use this HDNR bearing technology. Using HDNR bearings is a small premium to pay for maximum protection.
Datuk Dr Salmiah Ahmad
Malaysian Rubber Board