KOTA SAMARAHAN (Nov 25): The current hydrogen Autonomous Rapid Transit (ART) prototype will not be the final version to be used for the Kuching Urban Transportation System (KUTS), said Transport Minister Dato Sri Lee Kim Shin.
He said work to come up with the final version of the ART vehicle will be made next year, after the Sarawak government presents the data from the ongoing testing exercise to the manufacturer in China on improvements that need to be made on the 38 units ordered by the state.
“This is not the final version. This is just the prototype. The final version will be after all testing is done — we will get back to the manufacturer and sit down with them. They are also monitoring the performance of the prototype.
“We will compare data and tell them what we want to improve and how the final version is going to be,” he told reporters after visiting the site of the prototype vehicle’s proof of concept (POC) exercise on a dedicated lane at the Kuching-Samarahan Expressway today.
He pointed out that once the manufacturer has come up with the improved version of the ART vehicle, a delegation from Sarawak will go to China for a test run before the unit is shipped to Kuching.
“We will list out all the things that need to be improved and that we want to change. Maybe we want the design to be more aerodynamic — we will talk to the manufacturer on the things to be improved.
“That is the beauty in our tender — we don’t straight away accept the version. That’s why we have the proof of concept exercise; to prove to us whether the vehicle meets our requirement. Whatever we are not happy with, we can still negotiate and improve on it so the finished product will be what we want and meet both our and international requirement,” he said.
Lee added a team from the Transport Ministry is also working closely with Sarawak Metro Sdn Bhd, the implementor of the KUTS project, to monitor and ensure the project is completed within schedule and budget to avoid cost overrun.
On a related matter, he said the 38 units of ART vehicles ordered by Sarawak will be delivered in phases and not in one go.
“(This is) because it will take time also to manufacture. (It is) not like buying a car where you go to a showroom… People with no knowledge ask ‘Why do you order 38 units now?’. You don’t get this (vehicle) straight away. It has to shipped here (from China) and have to assemble here, and then we do commissioning and testing here.
“Of course, when you order advanced commitment, you will also have better price,” he said.
Meanwhile, the POC exercise is being carried out at a newly-constructed 2.6km stretch between the Sarawak Heart Centre roundabout and the Industrial Training Institute (ILP) roundabout and commenced on Nov 20. It is scheduled to end on Dec 15.
Lee said this short stretch is part of the ART’s dedicated lane for the KUTS alignment under the Blue Line, which starts from Rembus in Kota Samarahan to Hikmah Exchange in the city centre.
He added the ART will operate on dedicated lanes, either at-grade (road level) or elevated and will not share the road with other vehicles.
He also said while the POC exercise is ongoing, the prototype ART H2V is not open to the general public.
However, stakeholders from relevant agencies and even university students will be invited to experience rides on the prototype ART vehicle, allowing them to understand its capabilities and functionalities firsthand as well as gather feedback from them.
Lee explained the prototype ART vehicle, which recently completed its Engineering Run, was moved from Pending Port Terminal to La Promenade on Nov 17 to implement Stage 2 of the POC exercise at the Kuching-Samarahan Expressway.
“The Engineering Run conducted at the Isthmus from 6 September to 31 October had been a success in gathering the pertinent data. The prototype ART H2V covered a total distance of 5,407 km (including during Stage 1 of the POC exercise in China) and involved the participation of 84 agencies.
“A total of 1,999 visitors rode on the prototype ART vehicle, signifying substantial interest and engagement in the project,” he said.
Also present during the site visit were the ministry’s permanent secretary Dato Alice Jawan, Kota Samarahan Municipal Council chairman Dato Peter Minos and Sarawak Metro chief executive officer Mazli Mustaffa.