INFRASTRUCTURE Development and Communications Minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong has stated that it is not viable to construct a railway system for public transport usage in the state at the moment, due to the low population of Sarawak.
Although a study on Railway Development Master Plan for Central Region of Sarawak was in its final draft stage and scheduled to complete by August this year, Manyin (BN-Tebedu) added that the cost was too expensive even if the tracks were to be used for the transportation of goods.
“In Europe for instance, the Copenhagen underground railway system cost a total of RM731 million per kilometer (km). The Madrid railway system in Spain cost some RM43 million per km to build.
Seoul spent about RM392 million per km for its railway system while China’s railway system cost around RM30 million per km.
“As for the state, if we were to build our railway network now, within six months, it will become a white elephant due to the small population,” he explained when responding to Wong King Wei (DAP-Padungan) during his winding up speech at the sitting yesterday.
Wong later told reporters that a written reply in November 2006 pointed out that the government had planned to build a railway network dubbed the Borneo Railway System from Bintulu to Miri.
The cost then was estimated at RM10 million per km but after a couple of years, it triple-folded to RM30 million per km, he said.
“Worse still, the minister didn’t provide any details like from where to what point. Just stating that it’s in central region.
“I also asked whether it’s for passenger or cargo, and the minister replied cargo as announced in 2006. So this planned railway for central region is nothing new,” claimed Wong.
He thus urged the ministry to come up with details on the proposed railway system, which the minister earlier foresaw as a white elephant project given the low population in the state.
On comparison with other countries including China, Wong challenged the Barisan Nasional (BN) government to disclose details of relevant studies especially cost involved.