Sarawak govt exploring trackless train as alternative to LRT

Abang Johari (second right) uses a remote to launch a video to symbolically declare open CITA19. Also seen are (from right) Mohd Fadzil, Dayang Nurfatimah, Sulong and Wan Hashim.

by Karen Bong

KUCHING, July 16: The Sarawak government is looking into the possibility and feasibility of railless or trackless train as an alternative to light rail transit (LRT).

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg pointed out that China has developed the autonomous rail transit (ART) which runs on a virtual track rather than rails.

“When we want to roll out our objectives to improve Sarawak’s public transport, apparently there is new technology now where you don’t have to have (to lay) the rail tracks but just (use a normal) road system,” he said.

“With device, sensors and radar (installed) at the driver’s seat, (the train-like vehicle) can read the tracks and keep to its own lane on the road. This will reduce the cost (compared to LRT),” he added.

Reemphasising that artificial intelligence (AI) has improved and changed the world, he said AI will be the key driver in Sarawak’s digitalisation journey.

“I am looking at this (ART technology) now as it will greatly reduce the cost. The technology is from Germany but China has improvised on it,” he told participants at the 11th International Conference on Information Technology in Asia 2019 (CITA19) held at a hotel here today.

China in June 2017 unveiled the world’s first railless train in Zhuzhou located in central China’s Hunan province.

The articulated electric vehicle, similar to a train or tram with tube-like compartments, can run along regular asphalt roads, using rubber tires instead of steel wheels.

The vehicle follows a pair of white lines painted on the street and has sensors fitted like autonomous vehicles to avoid obstacles.

As such, Abang Johari reiterated the need to build the basic infrastructure in order for Sarawak to move forward and make progress.

The state government, he said, invested a substantial amount of money to prepare for and enable Sarawak’s ongoing digital transformation including telecommunication infrastructure and fiber optic connectivity.

“Sarawak, fortunately or unfortunately, is based in an island and therefore requires an effective (Internet) gateway to link to international networks and allow data traffic or else we will be confined domestically,” he shared.

“For Sarawak, we have to upgrade our land (transport network) connectivity and at the same time, identify a few gateways to be linked to international networks by using Singapore and Hong Kong as hubs to the rest of the world,” he added.

These international network links, he emphasised, were key to not only supporting the state’s digital initiatives but as well as to enable the state to better face the future.

“I hope in our pursuit to transform Sarawak through the digital economy, everyone will play a part and they must be futuristic,” he said.

Meanwhile, CITA19 was organised by the Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

It provides a platform for experts from both academia and industry to discuss on the development of information technology.

Themed ‘Trends and Future of Humanising Digital Technologies’, it hopes to encourage the use of technology to improve the livelihood of humanity in light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0).

The conference event consists of hands-on workshops, three keynote addresses, two talks and paper presentations.

The event also witnessed the signing of two Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) between Unimas and Lotus Farm Agritech Sdn Bhd as well as Unimas and Croesus IT Solutions Sdn Bhd.

Unimas Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Student Affairs and Alumni) Prof Datu Mohd Fadzil Abdul Rahman, Unimas Board of Directors chairman Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Sulong Matjeraie, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Prof Dr Wan Hashim Wan Ibrahim, and conference chair Associate Professor Dr Dayang Nurfatimah Awang Iskandar were present. — DayakDaily