By Ashley Sim
KUCHING, May 24: The ‘Free School Bus Programme’, which was implemented through Yayasan Sarawak, benefited 5,047 students from 64 schools, including 2,170 students from 27 Kuching schools, 2,604 students from 29 Miri schools, 68 students from two Bintulu schools, and 205 students from six Sibu schools.
According to Transport Minister Dato Sri Lee Kim Shin, the primary objective of the programme was mooted by Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg and was launched on July 14, 2020 with the main goal of assisting less fortunate students from the B40 group so that they can attend school every day and to lighten their families’ financial burden.
“I was informed that many students from the B40 group skipped classes because they could not afford the school bus fare for their daily transport to school.
“Currently, my ministry together with Yayasan Sarawak and Sarawak Information Systems Sdn Bhd (Sains) are working together to improve the business model for this programme by looking into the possibility of paying the school bus operator directly using cashless payment via S Pay Global.
“With the success of this programme and good response from the B40 group, my ministry and Yayasan Sarawak are planning to expand this programme to other divisions in Sarawak,” he said today during his winding-up speech at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting here.
Concerning hydrogen buses in Kuching, Lee stated that despite the buses’ limited routes, namely the ‘Downtown Heritage Loop’ and the ‘Damai Loop’, the hydrogen bus trial operation passenger service recorded an average monthly ridership of about 1,000 passengers, with a total of 18,580 passengers from September 2020 to April 2022.
Lee, who is also the Senadin assemblyman, explained that the main objectives of having the buses is to create awareness on the application of hydrogen fuel cells and also to gather data for Sarawak’s plan to adopt feeder buses utilising hydrogen fuel cells in the near future.
He noted that presently, the hydrogen bus passenger service is offered free of charge to members of the public, and are part of the stage bus services in Kuching city.
“Although faced with numerous challenges, especially during the pandemic period, where representatives from the bus manufacturers were unable to be physically present in Kuching to undertake the scheduled maintenance works, the local technicians, working closely with their counterparts in China, have been able to successfully ensure the buses are able to perform at optimum level at all times during the trial operation.
“This has provided invaluable experience for Sarawak Metro Sdn Bhd’s team of local technicians, who are now among a handful of people in Southeast Asia, capable of carrying out these maintenance and operation works for zero-emission hydrogen-powered public transport buses,” he revealed. — DayakDaily