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Penang bridges

Penang, Malaysia


1985 / 2014


3 years / 6 years


£150m / £842m


Project achievements

Economy boosted

The bridges helped industry in the region grow rapidly, and boosted tourism.

Solved the problem

Connected a Malaysian island to its mainland

Used engineering skill

Build cable-stayed bridges that can withstand earthquakes

Build a bridge to connect Penang Island to the Malaysian mainland

The 2 Penang bridges are crossings over the Penang Strait in Malaysia. They connect the area of Seberang Perai on the Malay peninsula with the island of Penang.

The first Penang bridge is 13.5km (8.4 mile) long. The cable-stayed structure was the first road connection between the peninsula and the island.

With a length of 8.4km (5.2 miles) over water, the toll-operated dual carriageway is the second-longest bridge in Malaysia.

When the first bridge opened, the central span had six lanes, while the rest of the structure had only four lanes. Later work in 2009 widened the entire bridge to six lanes.

The second Penang bridge – also known as the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge – is 24km (15 miles) long with a length over water of 16.9km (10.5 miles).

Named after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong – the term used for the monarch and head of state of Malaysia – the second Penang bridge was largely funded by a loan from China.

The cable-stayed structure is the longest bridge in Malaysia as well as the longest in Southeast Asia. It won ICE’s Brunel Medal Award in 2015.

"Longest bridge in Southeast Asia opens today”


Penang Bridges

Engineer Siu Fa Ng tells us of her personal experience travelling on the first Penang Bridge as a child, which is the only mode of transport between the Penang Island and the Peninsular Malaysia. She also talks us through the construction of both Penang Bridges.

Did you know …

  1. Over 2,300 people were involved in building the first Penang bridge – 20 workers were killed during construction.

  2. Despite its driver-friendly design, the second bridge saw its first road accident within 24 hours of opening.

  3. Both bridges have been used for the Penang Bridge International Marathon. The annual event sees participants run along a coastal highway route and across one of the bridges.

Difference the project has made

The first and second Penang bridges both contributed to a rapid growth in industry in the region.

By linking Penang Island to the mainland, the bridges encouraged tourism – bringing more income to the island and boosting the local economy.

The second bridge reduced traffic on the first Penang bridge by 20%. It’s credited with transforming the area into a key logistics and transportation hub.

How the work was done

Engineers working on the first Penang bridge faced major challenges with ground conditions during construction work.

The presence of marine shells – often found in coastal areas – meant ground at the site was like soft clay. This led to excessive settlement of the bridge during construction.

The project team solved the problem by removing topsoil from the embankment area and compacting backfill material to make it dryer.

‘Backfill’ means filling a hole created by digging or drilling, often using some of the material that has been dug out.

To cut costs, engineers working on the second bridge modified elements of its design to resemble the first bridge. The changes included giving the second bridge a cable-stayed mid-span of 240m.

The project team gave the second bridge several S-shaped curves along its 24km length. This was intended to keep motorists’ attention on the road while driving and reduce accidents.

The second bridge has seismic expansion joints – allowing the structure to move during an earthquake. It was the first time the technique had been used on a bridge in Malaysia.

People who made it happen

  • Client: the government of Malaysia

First bridge

  • Consultant engineers: Howard, Needles, Tammen and Bergendoff International

Second bridge

  • Design and build contractors: China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd
  • Lead consultants: MMSB consult Sdn Bhd, RB Perunding Sdn Bhd

More about this project

First bridge

Second bridge