First phase of LRT plan back on track for Samarahan, Kuching

Abang Johari speaking to Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing (left) after the adjournment of the State Legislative Assembly Sitting today (May 9, 2019). On the right is Assistant Minister for Rural Electricity Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Junaidi.

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By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, April 9: Due to popular demand, Sarawak will finally have its own Light Rapid Transit (LRT) similar to the Disneyland LRT, to connect Kuching to Kota Samarahan in due time, revealed Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said the state government had relented due to increasing public demand to ease traffic congestion between Kuching and Kota Samarahan coupled with the increasing student population in Kota Samarahan which houses Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), UiTM and the Tun Abdul Razak Teachers’ Training Institute.

“We will proceed with the first phase. That means between Kuching and Kota Samarahan. That will be implemented first. A lot of people are wanting better public transport especially when we have 20,000 students in UiTM and Unimas. These people do not have cars. So, we are providing that public transport (for them),” Abang Johari told the media after delivering his winding-up speech at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) here today.

He added that since the feasibility studies have been carried out and the route has been shortened, it would be much cheaper to implement the first phase.

“The feasibility studies have been done but we did not implement the project before because you know lah….But now that there request there, so what I do is to focus on Samarahan and Kuching only,” he said.

When asked on the time frame when it would be implemented and the type of model it would be like, he responded, “It will be implemented in due time.

“And the cost will be cheaper. And perhaps, we will have new technology for our public transport. The cost would be less that the original one because the route would be much shorter. It will be a small one similar to Disney Land LRT,” he revealed.

Map showing the original proposed LRT route linking Kuching to Kota Samarahan.

The Chief Minister reiterated that the state government would only implement the first phase.

“Last time we stopped the planning. But now because of the request. So, I said if that’s the case we just concentrate on the congested expressway between Samarahan and Kuching,” he added.

The proposed LRT was supposed to link Kuching to Serian via Kota Samarahan but the plan was duly scrapped due to fierce criticism from the opposition.

Earlier in his winding-up speech, the Chief Minister said the traffic jam between Kuching and Kota Samarahan during peak hours has been the cause of public complaints and higher cost of doing business.

“Some critics said that building an LRT is not feasible to address this problem and suggested to build more roads and provide free bus services.

“Based on the study that we have conducted, no country in this world can solve the traffic congestion just by building more roads. More roads mean more vehicles on the roads and more traffic congestion. Even using bus you will be caught on the road with the traffic jam,” he said.

The Chief Minister pointed out that a typical example are the Kuching and Samarahan areas which before the construction of the Kuching-Samarahan Expressway, were only served by the Kuching-Penrissen-Muara Tuang Road.

“The Kuching-Samarahan Expressway was built to provide an alternative road and to reduce the traffic congestion. Now as we all experience, the new Kuching-Samarahan Expressway is always congested especially in the morning and after office hours.

“I am getting a lot of complaints from commuters moving between these two destinations expressing their frustration of long driving time and crawling traffic. Being a responsible government, we listen to the demand of our city folks for a better and efficient public transportation system.

“Therefore, we will proceed with the detailed technical study on the implementation of Phase 1 covering the most congested areas in Kuching and Samarahan areas using the most feasible technology option,” he said. — DayakDaily