Transport expert hails Sarawak’s shift from LRT to ART

The LRT system would cost more than an ART as it involves the construction of tracks and vehicles.

PETALING JAYA: A veteran transport consultant has applauded Sarawak’s plan to adopt an autonomous rail transit (ART) system instead of light rail transit (LRT) for the capital city of Kuching, saying this is a more economic decision which will achieve the same purpose.

Speaking to FMT, Rosli Azad Khan, who has over 40 years of experience in transport planning, said the ART was a much cheaper system than the LRT, which requires the construction of tracks and vehicles.

Often described as a cross between a train, a bus and a tram, an ART is a passenger transport system that uses a train and carriages which run on rubber tires on roads rather than tracks.

It was developed by a Chinese company, CRRC Zhuzhou Institute Co Ltd, and unveiled in 2017.

“There will be huge savings for any state government that opts for this system instead of the LRT which serves more or less the same purpose of a dedicated public transport line,” Rosli said.

“It is like the Bus Rapid Transit, but it uses existing road space like a tram without wasting space or requiring large amounts of money to build a track.”

Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg previously said the ART would cost a third of what the LRT system would have cost. He said they hoped to roll out the ART in Kuching by 2025.

Rosli said a city like Kuching had a relatively low ridership demand spread over a wide area which made the ART a more appropriate option than the LRT.

“Kuching will have a ridership of less than 5,000 passengers per direction per hour, so the ART makes sense.”

Aside from the low capital cost, Rosli said, the ART could also serve low-demand corridors which might be developed in the future.

“A transit-based property development could be planned around each of the stations in order to increase its ridership.

“Due to the use of existing roads, the cost of adding new lines or additional spur lines would be much cheaper as well.”

He said this also made the ART a more flexible option as additional lines could be introduced when needed which could be integrated into the current system.

The one downside, he said, was that there was only a single supplier for the ART system which could mean high costs for spare parts in the absence of a partnership or transfer of technology to a local company.

However, he said it would still be cheaper than an LRT.

“If Kuching becomes the first city in Malaysia to introduce the ART, other similar sized cities in the country can introduce it too if it is successful.”

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