DAP: Upgrading Sarawak bus service will cost fraction of LRT

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KUCHING: It would be more effective to improve public transportation in Sarawak by upgrading the existing bus system, and it could be done at a fraction of the cost of the proposed light rail transit (LRT), says the DAP.

The party, which has been pushing for a government takeover of the state’s bus companies, said the cost of building and operating the LRT may exceed 20 times that of buying new buses and staffing them to service more routes.

“We cannot understand why is it when the DAP asks the government to improve our bus transportation system, the government refused to do it but has instead come up with this LRT system, which is so much more expensive and not as practical,” Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong told reporters here today.

Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg had recently proposed to link the towns in southern Sarawak with a railway system.

He said the state was also interested in adopting low or zero emission electric vehicles to connect Kuching, Serian and Samarahan.

Under the proposal, the chief minister expected the groundwork for the first LRT station to be completed by 2020.

Prior to Abang Johari’s announcement, the DAP had proposed that the state government take over the bus firms in Sarawak.

There are currently four bus companies in Kuching, namely Bau Transport Company, Petra Jaya Transport Company, Syarikat City Public Link (CPL) Bus Service Sdn Bhd and Sarawak Transport Company Bhd.

The companies currently have 107 buses, servicing 60 routes.

The DAP estimated the overall costs for the expanded operations and new buses covering Kuching, Serian and Samarahan over the next five years to come up to RM500 million.

“We only need RM500 million to improve the bus transportation in the major cities, by taking over and improving what already exists. But the government has refused to do it for RM500 million and now they want the LRT, which we believe is not right at this point in time.

“We’ve still not seen a public transport master plan coming out from the state government,” Yong said.

In Budget 2016, Prime Minister Najib Razak had announced that the LRT3 extension project in Kuala Lumpur – covering 37km in tracks – will cost RM10 billion.

The DAP estimated that the proposed Samarahan-Kuching-Serian route may exceed 50 km.

Yong added that the new LRT system would still require buses and taxis to service the stations.

“Once the people reach the destination, how do you expect them to go to their workplaces?

“You must have better bus and taxi services and sufficient parking spaces at the LRT stations. The stations must have all these supporting features and facilities to make it complete.

“You cannot implement LRT as a single project only, which is very costly,” Yong said.

She added that the DAP supports the improvement of public transportation but would need to review the master public transport blueprint.

“Our government must be more practical rather than just dream big. But before you reach that stage you have to fulfil the prior stages. Furthermore, it’s ironic we don’t have proper road standards and now we want to go for the LRT.”

“The government must let the public know the masterplan first. At the end of the day, this plan must be workable and not end up as a white elephant,” Yong said.