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Upgrade normal buses before looking at electric ones

 | May 1, 2017

Sarawak DAP leader also says it is more cost advantageous to have free bus services than have LRT which rural people can’t afford.

Chong-Chieng-JenKUCHING: Sarawak DAP leader Chong Chieng Jen has called on the state government to focus on upgrading present public bus services before proceeding with its plan to build an LRT system and purchasing electric buses.

On Saturday, Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg said the state government would carry out a feasibility study on using electric buses in Kuching, Samarahan and Serian divisions.

The chief minister had also recently proposed to link the towns in southern Sarawak with a light rail transit (LRT) system.

Abang Johari said that groundwork for the first LRT station could be completed by 2020 while the electric buses may be purchased in 10 years.

“On his suggestion to have the LRT system up and running, connecting Kuching to Serian, I do not intend to pour cold water on the proposal but merely want to bring Abang Jo down to earth with some facts.”

Chong said the LRT system is meant for transportation within an urban centre and not a means for inter-town transport.

The Kota Sentosa assemblyman said inter-town lines do not normally use the LRT, but a normal commuter train.

Chong also referred to the LRT expansion project in Kuala Lumpur covering 34km, construction of which commenced in 2010, costing RM7 billion.

“Given the depreciation of the ringgit and general inflation, it would take RM10 billion to construct a similar stretch of LRT in Sarawak now,” said the Bandar Kuching MP.

Chong estimated costs for the Kuching-Serian LRT system alone to be RM20 billion.

“And if you add the Samarahan line, all of the Sarawak government’s reserves will be depleted with this one project.”

Sarawak has financial reserves of RM27 billion.

“Even with the LRT line up and running, poor people will still have to walk for hours to get to the respective stations because of poor bus connectivity.

“Can the poor in Sarawak also afford the expensive fares of LRT services?”

On Abang Johari’s suggestion of having electric buses in future, Chong said he would rather the state government focus on improving the present public bus services in and around Kuching, covering up to the 24th Mile Kuching-Serian Road.

He further proposed that the government buy out and take over the public buses and inject funds to purchase another 200 buses — which will be twice the present number of buses in operation.

He also said the government should fund the operations and make the service free to the public for the first five years.

“For all these, the conservative estimate is only RM200 million for the first year and, thereafter, less than RM80 million each year,” Chong said.

He said the benefits of free improved public bus services included reduced traffic jams, reduced transport costs of at least RM300 per working adult per month and the reduced need to purchase a car.

“It is DAP’s proposal that the state government improve the public bus service first before talking about LRT and electric buses.

“Learn to walk before one tries to jump,” Chong said.



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