Chong: Don’t embark on ART project, do free, efficient public bus system

Chong Chieng Jen

KUCHING, Sept 2: Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen has reiterated calls for the state government to not embark on the Autonomous Rapid Transit (ART) project.

Calling the project grand, distant and with costs far out-weighing its benefits, he urged Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to immediately implement a free and efficient public bus transportation system which Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) proposed in 2017 instead.

“The focus of the government at this time should be to create jobs and to save jobs, instead of repeated announcements of the ‘hot air’ projects.

“I called upon Abang Jo to be more pragmatic in his economic planning for the state. He is the leader of the state and should adopt a more down to earth and effective approach in creating and saving jobs for Sarawakians in Sarawak,” he said in a statement today.

He was responding to the recent announcement on the ART project which is estimated to cost RM6 billion and expected to be in operation by 2025 in Sarawak.

Chong noted that Abang Johari had first proposed the Light Transit Rail (LRT) which was estimated to cost RM10 billion, then changed focus to the hydrogen bus project, and now the latest being the ART system.

“After much initial excitement on the part of the state government over the proposals, the first two proposals simply fizzled out. This third project will likely suffer the same fate as it is not practical to start with in the first place and the actual benefits do not justify the costs involved,” he emphasised.

Chong, who is also Stampin MP, thus urged the state government to adopt its proposal on totally revamping Kuching city public transport, by acquiring all bus companies, provide 300 buses to operate on the roads and offer free bus rides for the people for the first five years of its implementation.

“Such a proposal would cost the government an estimated RM50 million a year to operate while creating at least 1,000 middle-range paying jobs and saving commuters a few hundred (ringgit) in monthly expenditure on petrol, parking, car maintenance and even hire-purchase repayment (as there would be less need to buy cars),” he explained.

He said that there was still time to implement the free bus service proposed by Sarawak DAP.

“In fact, as early as 2014, the then Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) had announced a study of public bus routes and systems in Kuching but such a plan was not put to action.

“Therefore, the DAP Sarawak’s proposal for a free public bus system can be immediately implemented and will be in full operation as early as the beginning of 2021,” he said.

This, he continued, will create jobs for bus drivers, mechanics, system programmers, system support staff, and other economic spin-offs in the local economy.

“It will also save the commuters’ monthly expenditures on petrol and transport, thereby increasing their household disposable incomes.

“The state government is entrusted by the people of Sarawak to properly manage the people’s money. It has to spend prudently and give Sarawakians every ringgit worth of benefit for every ringgit spent,” he stressed. — DayakDaily