KUCHING: Autonomous rail transit (ART), which overtook light rail transit (LRT) as the preferred system to modernise Sarawak’s public transport system, is expected to be operational here in three years’ time, said Transport Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin.
He told reporters today that the state government was now planning its route as the system needed dedicated lanes, which could require the construction of new roads or expansion of existing ones.
Lee added that the government was looking into the type of ART vehicles suitable for the state, pointing out that they could have up to five carriages or coaches that can take about 500 passengers with the current technology in China.
“We are looking at the technology that is presently being used in several cities in China. The technology presently used in China are the electric ART, which is chargeable. A fully charged ART can go about 35km at a speed of 70km per hour.
“As the ART have dedicated lanes, it will be very reliable. If it is 50 minutes, within 50 minutes it will arrive at its destination,” he told reporters after receiving a courtesy call from the Consul-General of China, Cheng Guangzhong, at his office here.
He also said that ART was cheaper to implement compared to the LRT at only one-third the cost of the latter.
Lee believed that in order to encourage people to use public transport, it must be safe, reliable and efficient.
As such, he said ART will be a smart or intelligent transport because it will utilise technology like autogate and cashless payment, whereby passengers can use the state’s own digital wallet, Sarawak Pay, or other similar applications for fares.
Last Friday, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state had decided on the ART with construction of dedicated lanes expected to start next year.
“We are looking at areas between Kuching and Bau, Kuching and Serian as well as Kuching and Lundu,” he said, citing project cost as the reason the state government had decided on the ART.
He also said the ART might also be built in Bintulu after Kuching due to the growing traffic congestion there.
Abang Johari had initially announced in May this year that the LRT project would proceed, starting with the first phase covering the Kuching-Samarahan.
He told reporters on the sidelines of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting that the project’s construction would cost less than RM5 billion.
Three LRT lines were supposed to be implemented, namely Kota Samarahan to Sungai Baru for Line 1, Serian to Senari (Line 2) and City Dispersal Line (Line 3) which involved a total cost of about RM10.8 billion.