PETALING JAYA: The proposal to build a Trans-Borneo Railway linking the two East Malaysian states with Indonesia and, possibly, Brunei will benefit the region, says a transport expert.
Transport consultant Rosli Azad Khan said the transnational railway was a “good idea” which would facilitate the movement of bulk cargo.
“(This includes) oil and gas, coal, timber, palm oil and aggregates. Transporting bulk cargo is cheaper by railway because the cost per tonne kilometre is much cheaper than road transport,” he told FMT.
Rosli said railway infrastructure was more durable and, like the Malayan railway, could potentially last up to 100 years. It is also less prone to natural disasters.
“For long-distance transport, railway is much better than road because the road is prone to all sorts of damage like landslides and erosion, cutting people off,” he said.
Rosli said a railway would reduce congestion and allow the public in both Sabah and Sarawak, particularly those living in rural areas, access to transportation since not everyone could afford cars.
The federal government recently agreed to consider Sarawak’s proposal for the Trans-Borneo Railway, with the state’s premier Abang Johari Openg saying the proposed railway would boost the region’s economy, especially in the logistics sector.
The Trans-Borneo Railway was initially suggested by former prime minister Najib Razak to Indonesian president Joko Widodo in 2015 to facilitate the movement of people, goods and services.
It is aimed at attracting investment to foster economic development in the region while also promoting tourism.
Economist Madeline Berma said the rail link was long overdue, considering the transportation challenges faced in Sabah and Sarawak.
“It will bring in more local and foreign investments, spurring economic growth and (creating) employment opportunities for locals in the region,” she said.
In addition, a railway would go a long way towards providing access to the Indonesian market and establishing better economic collaboration between the two countries, especially with the relocation of the Indonesian capital to Kalimantan.
Berma said the development of both the Trans-Borneo Railway and the Pan-Borneo Highway was crucial to stimulate the economies of Sabah and Sarawak.
However, she said, the railway project needed to be managed sustainably to benefit the communities.