KUCHING: The Public Works Department’s (JKR) coastal connectivity program will be a cost saving initiative for all stakeholders including motorists, residents along the coastal areas, government bodies, and surrounding industries.
The main objective of the coastal connectivity program is to complete and enhance the present connectivity through the construction of a missing link of road between Sarikei and Tanjung Manis and seven major bridges which will be located at Rambungan, Lupar, Saribas, Krian, Paloh, Lassa, and Igan.
The estimated total cost of the project is around RM3.15 billion with an additional RM1.19 billion for the upgrading and improvement works on the existing roads of: Kpg. Triso–Selalang Toad; Samarahan–Sebuyau Road; Tanjung Manis–Daro Road; Daro–Mukah–Balingan Road; and a few small stretches of existing roads located in the Bintulu and Miri Divisions.
In an interview with The Borneo Post, Chiew Chee Yau, the acting assistant director of JKR’s Road branch, said the completion of these bridges will replace 12 existing ferry services in those areas which are estimated to service 2.58 million vehicles per year.
As the operation of these ferries cost an approximate RM35.27 million per annum, the implementation of these bridges would save costs in the long term.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing shared this view, noting that the construction of bridges and roads would eventually pay for themselves as it drives socio-economic growth in the area.
Furthermore, Chiew opined that without the bridges, the costs of ferry operation would only continue to rise with the weakening ringgit, the rising price of diesel, and the increasing number of vehicles to be serviced each year.
Chiew, who is also a civil engineer by trade, said residents in the surrounding areas would benefit greatlyt from the construction of the bridges as historically, the completion of major bridges in Sarawak has been a huge driver of socio-economic growth within the area.
“With bridges present, the cost of transportation of goods, services and materials will reduce and help open the area up for development.
“With a reduced cost of transportation of goods, residents in the area can expect even the costs of basic household materials to be reduced, especially in more rural areas of Sarawak where accessibility is more of an issue,” Chiew said.
He further stressed on the importance of the construction of this road, commenting that roads are the first infrastructure that need to be present to connect an area for further development.
Meanwhile, the recently unveiled RM3.15 billion second trunk road program will be implemented simultaneously alongside the coastal connectivity program.
The implementation of the second trunk road will be divided into two phases: Phase I – Samarahan to Roban, with an estimated length of 112km; and Phase II – Sebuyau to Sri Aman/Beton with an estimated length of 94km.
This highway is expected to reduce traveling time from Kuching to Sibu by three hours and fuel usage by half.
When asked if the second trunk road and enhancement of the coastal roads would be a benefit for business operations, Lim Jit Yaw, head of Cahya Mata Sarawak’s Construction and Road Maintenance Division (CMS Roads), shared, “100 per cent, there will be reduced costs all over for my operations.”
“The reduced costs and increased efficiency of material and machinery delivery will be an asset to my operations as it would not only allow me to cut down project schedules and reduce labour costs, but also allow me to look towards better more efficient routes.”
Lim went onto to clarify that while CMS Roads already has an established route and base at Tanjung Manis, the completion and upgrading of the coastal roads and the implementation of the second trunk road would allow him more options in future if there is more need for expansion.
Additionally, the reduced costs and increased efficiency of transportation would also be beneficial towards JKR’s operations as it would help reduce the overall costs of road construction.