KUCHING: DAP says Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg’s plan to link Kuching with the surrounding towns through a combination of light rail transit (LRT) and electric buses is “Frankenstein-esque”.
Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei added that the plan, announced early this year, lacked details and forethought.
“I doubt the chief minister had given a second thought before making the announcement on the plan for public transportation,” Wong said during the debate on the motion of thanks on the chief minister’s speech at the Sarawak assembly today.
Abang Johari has proposed to link Kuching, Serian and Samarahan with a railway system using zero-emission electric vehicles such as the LRT.
The chief minister said he expected construction of the main trunk line between Serian and Damai, a resort enclave in Santubong, to begin by 2020.
Defending his plan, Abang Johari said: “People have said that I am daydreaming. God willing, when I set my mind to something I will not withdraw (from it).”
He said when he took over the housing ministry with a debt of RM30 million, he turned it around and it has become a profitable organisation now.
“With that experience, I am sure the vision for us to have an LRT will be implemented. Mark my words,” he added.
DAP had earlier criticised the proposal, saying the cost of building and operating the LRT may exceed 20 times that of buying new buses and staffing them to service more routes.
Wong said an LRT system is suitable only in urban areas that are densely populated, and is “never meant as an intercity transport service”.
The distance between Serian and Damai is 80km, longer than the 60km distance of the initially proposed Kuching-Samarahan-Serian LRT system.
“By conservative estimates, the construction cost of the Serian-Damai trunk line will hit an astronomical figure of at least RM25 billion.
“If the chief minister’s intention is to build a high-speed rail (HSR) system to improve intercity connectivity instead of an LRT system to alleviate traffic congestion in cities, then the HSR system must connect the various cities and towns in Sarawak to be effective,” Wong said.
“What is the chief minister’s true intention in building only one LRT trunk line between Serian and Damai?
“If his plan is to build a HSR system, then build one that connects all cities and towns in Sarawak.
“You can’t have an inter-city train connecting only two small towns.”
Wong said if the government’s goal was to fix bad traffic, then an LRT system should be set up within Kuching, supported by an effective bus service in city areas.
“As it currently stands, the chief minister’s proposed public transport infrastructure is like a Frankenstein-esque system that is neither HSR (high-speed rail) nor LRT.
“I wonder where he learns this public transport system from and what it is actually called.”
Wong proposed the establishment of a Sarawak public transport consultative committee on the implementation of the LRT or similar public transport systems.
He also urged the government to publish a public transport master plan in six months.
Last Friday, DAP’s motion to discuss the LRT system at the assembly was rejected.
The LRT system is expected to be funded by the newly created Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS) and will be managed by the Sarawak Economic Development Council (SEDC).