LRT plan will bankrupt Sarawak, says Chong

Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen (right) and his assistant Dr Kelvin Yii show newspaper cuttings of the cost of LRT extension project in Klang Valley.

KUCHING, Dec 19: The Chief Minister’s ambitious Light Rail Transit (LRT) plan will bankrupt Sarawak, says Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen.

Using rough calculations based on the recent few LRT extension projects in the Klang Valley, Chong said the LRT plan connecting Kuching, Serian, Samarahan and Santubong may bankrupt Sarawak’s RM28 billion reserves.

“As such, I call upon (Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi) Abang Johari (Tun Openg) to drop such an unrealistic and ridiculous idea of connecting these four places with LRT,” Chong told a press conference today.

The total distance connecting these four places is about 129 km, said the state DAP chairman, who derived the number from totaling the distance from Kuching–Serian (62km), Kuching–Kota Samarahan (34km) and Kuching–Santubong (33km).

“This is not including the line connecting the various housing estates and business regions in the city. What is the estimated costs of construction involved?” asked Chong, who is also Kota Sentosa state assemblyman.

Based on the recent few LRT extension projects undertaken in the Klang Valley, Chong said the costs for constructing 129km of LRT lines is estimated to be between RM25.8 to RM32.2 billion.

The examples quoted are the 35km-Ampang and Kelana Jaya LRT lines costing RM7 billion (construction commenced in 2011) and the 36km-Bandar Utama LRT line which costs RM9 billion (construction commenced in 2016). These expenses did not include the cost of land acquisition. Thus, the construction costs alone (without the land acquisition costs) is approximately RM200–250 million per km.

“The fact that we may not need so much elevated rail lines may lower the costs but there are other factors like inflation and higher construction costs in Sarawak that will increase the costs further. Furthermore, there is also the cost for land acquisition that was not included in the above figures.

“Therefore, for Abang Jo to go ahead with such a ridiculous plan, he is likely to finish off the whole of the Sarawak government’s reserve of RM28 billion in one project,” Chong concluded.

Other than the huge cost, Chong also questioned the ridership figure, which will not be economically feasible with the 1 million population in the four areas in the state

While the LRT operation in the Klang Valley, despite a huge customer base of approximately 7 million, is still making losses, Chong said the chief minister must justify the estimated revenue and costs of operation in the state.

“It does not need an expert to know that the LRT proposal of Abang Jo’s to connect Kuching, Kota Samarahan, Serian and Santubong is simply ridiculous and economically not feasible. Not only will the construction costs bankrupt our state’s reserves, the LRT’s operation and maintenance costs will also greatly burden our future generations to come,” he added.

Chong thereby urged Abang Johari to drop his ego and stop fiddling with the LRT idea.

“Do not make all Sarawakians and our children pay dearly for his pride and ego. If he wants to leave a legacy in transport, build the trans-Sarawak train line that not only carries people but also cargo,” he said. — DayakDaily