KUCHING: The state government will request between RM150 and RM200 million to improve and modernise the bus services in the city.
Minister of Housing and Urban Development Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said if he could raise the fund, the city’s public transport would certainly be transformed.
“Public transportation is one of our National Key Result Areas (NKRAs) and it is envisaged that within five years time Kuching will not only enjoy modern bus services but also an integrated public transport system when the land transport is linked with the water taxis” he said during press conference after being briefed by Sarawak Transport and Co Association (STC), Traffic Committee and Commercial Vehicle and Licensing Board (LPKP)
“Our aim is to start with 50 new public buses through partnership with private operators. The cost of these modern buses will be between RM750,000 and RM1 million. Therefore, it may not be financially feasible for private operators to revamp the bus operations on their own due to the lack of funds and high costs of operation,” he said.
He added that the fund would be used to improve the public transportation infrastructure, integrating modern technologies such as electronic tickets and Global Positioning System (GPS).
The implementation would not only benefit locals and stakeholders, but most importantly it will also boost tourism into the city, he said.
According to Johari there are currently 101 registered buses in Kuching and 13 per cent of the city’s population depends on public transportation and 85 per cent passengers depending on buses.
“Because of the poor bus transport services, people are increasingly turning to private mode of transport. If this trend continues, the public transport’s mode share will be reduced to 10 per cent in the year 2020,” he said.
Johari explained that the trend would affect the viability of buses as public transportation which in turn will cause traffic congestion, high carbon emission and pollution.
He said that with the city’s population current annual average growth rate put at 3.3 per cent, the city’s projected population would reach about 700,000 by the year 2020.
“Right now the average speed during morning and evening peak hours is about 20km per hour. We are concerned that unrestrained traffic volume growth will result in intolerable congestion levels that will reduce the average speed to 10km per hour by the year 2020,” he added.
According to Johari, motor vehicle registration has been growing at the rate of approximately 6.2 per cent per annum and the figures have now reached 200,000 cars and 195,000 motorcycles, with average car ownership at 0.8 car per household.
The implementation of the new buses would help limit carbon emissions and pollution enough to meet Malaysia’s commitment to reduce carbon emission by 40 per cent in the year 2025.
Johari said that the buses would also cater to the elderly and handicapped and there would be bus lanes and bus stops equipped with electronic information boards to ensure timely arrivals and departures.
He added that a new route system connecting the city centre to the suburbs would be implemented.
“Kuching Central will be the main hub connecting to a series of sub-hubs in the suburbs, to encourage the park-and-ride system that will help reduce entry of private vehicles into the city centre,” he said.