Sarawak Metro answers public’s questions on Autonomous Rapid Transit system

Wee (upper left) having a discussion with the Sarawak Metro officers during his 194th ShallWeeTalk session online on Dec 16, 2023.

KUCHING, Dec 17: The Autonomous Rapid Transit (ART) vehicles, which can carry up to 300 passengers, will run on specially designated lanes that are elevated above the road by approximately 300mm and thus will not interfere with car routes, resulting in minimal traffic congestion.

Sarawak Metro Sdn Bhd (Sarawak Metro) acting head of department (Interface), Chew Yueh Chin, further explained that they will enhance the functionality of the traffic lights by incorporating new smart features that will allow the traffic lights to communicate with approaching ART vehicles.

“As the ART approaches within 50m of the traffic light, it will be detected in advance. The traffic light system can detect the movement of the ART and accord them priority, ensuring smooth operation,” he said during Kuching South City Council (MBKS) mayor Dato Wee Hong Seng’s 194th ShallWeeTalk livestream yesterday (Dec 16).

Sarawak Metro was invited to Wee’s ShallWeeTalk session yesterday via Facebook Live on his official Facebook page to allow the general public to learn more about the KUTS project, particularly the ART.

Chew said that the ART vehicles are equipped with amenities specifically designed for individuals with disabilities and senior citizens.

He also mentioned ongoing discussions between Sarawak Metro and the Sarawak government regarding the ART fares.

“Passengers can use S Pay Global, GrabPay, credit card or cash for payment methods. Passengers paying in cash must go to the payment machine and purchase their tickets there.”

Meanwhile, Sarawak Metro civil engineer Radin Muhammad Norqayyum highlighted that there are 55 feeder buses, with each ART station having an average of two feeder buses with a radius of 3km to serve each station.

“So if you live within the 3km radius, the feeder bus will send you to the station,” he said, adding that each ART will arrive at each station every 10 minutes.

“We’re going to build a tracker in our app, so hopefully, you can estimate the arrival time. You can see the arrival time of our ARTs coming to the station.”

Radin Muhammad continued: “The map for feeder buses is still in the finalising stage, subject to the local council’s approval. So right now, we are discussing with the Ministry of Public Health, Housing, and Local Government and getting feedback from all the local councils regarding our routes. The estimated time may be by next year, quarter four, 2034, and hopefully, we can develop a route for the feeder buses.”

Furthermore, during the Facebook live session, a member of the public asked whether the hydrogen-powered ART vehicles in Sarawak are susceptible to explosions due to the region’s particularly hot climate.

Chew clarified that hydrogen is, in fact, dangerous. However, he pointed out that the ART vehicles in Sarawak have sensors specifically designed to detect flat tyres. Once a flat tire is detected, the sensors will promptly establish a connection with the headquarters and halt the vehicle’s operation.

“The authorities have conducted multiple tests to ensure the safe use of hydrogen in ART vehicles,” he added.

Moreover, when a netizen asked about the similarities between ARTs and buses, Chew explained that the ART vehicles’ shape design and spatial layout serve specific purposes. Additionally, ARTs operate on roads, which offers cost-effectiveness, meets the demand, and is highly environmentally friendly.

According to several news reports, Sarawak Transport Minister Datuk Seri Lee Kim Shin stated that the State’s ART system line is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

Lee explained that the first route for ART, which is a lidar (light detection and ranging) guided articulated bus system for urban passenger transport, will be called the Blue Line, running from Rembus to Riveria over a distance of 27.6km, and it may start operation in early 2026.

The other two routes are the Red Line, which runs over 12.3km from Kuching Sentral to Pending, and the Green Line, which runs 30km from Pending to Damai in Santubong.

The Transport Minister also said the prototype hydrogen ART vehicle, which arrived in Kuching, had undergone a successful two-month run at the Isthmus in September and October.

He stated that the Prototype ART vehicle covered a total distance of 5,407km during the engineering run stages, including its Stage 1 Engineering Run in China and Stage 2 at Kuching Isthmus. — DayakDaily