State eyes tunnelling tech to reduce road maintenance costs in hilly areas

From left: Simoi, Jaul, Masing, Abang Johari, Julaihi and Abdul Karim at the Batang Lupar earth-breaking ceremony this morning (March 23, 2021).

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By Lian Cheng and Christopher Bishop

SEBUYAU, March 23: The Infrastructure and Port Management Ministry proposes using tunnelling technology instead of cut-and-fill methods to cut the cost of road maintenance involving hilly terrain amounting to RM15-50 million annually.

Its Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing said the engineers of Sarawak Works Department are receptive to new approaches to overcome engineering challenges in road-building.

He said some new approaches in designing roads and bridges may seemingly be more expensive to start with but in the long run, they are cheaper. Citing the example of tunnelling technology, Masing who is also Deputy Chief Minister proposed that the method to replace the commonly used method of cut-and-fill.

“Building roads by tunnelling through the mountain may appear more expensive than cut-and-fill methods. Tunnelling does not require much maintenance once completed and the uncut ground above is not scarred; the environment still looks pristine and cultivation can take place.

“Tunnelling technology is very up-to-date, which could minimise the cost of construction.

“Cut-and-fill methods of building roads around our hills and mountains may cost less but maintenance due to slope failures is very high. It is estimated that road maintenance in the hilly terrain is about RM15 to RM50 million per year,” said Masing at the earth-breaking ceremony for the Batang Lupar Bridge this morning.

Meanwhile, on bridges in Sarawak, Masing advocated the construction of 11 bridges to serve 65 per cent of population who are staying at the lower reaches of rivers with their catchment areas situated at interior Sarawak.

While the construction of the 11 bridges costs not more than RM4 billion, the total cost of these bridges and the roads linking them will cost more than RM11 billion.

“The total cost to construct these 11 huge bridges spanning our rivers and roads to connect them is no less than RM11 billion. The engineering challenges to construct them requires skills, dedication and thinking out of the box design by our engineers involved,” said Masing.

Masing expressed appreciation to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg for accepting the ministry’s proposal and working hard to finance the mammoth undertaking.

“Building these bridges is half the job done. The next task for YAB CM (Chief Minister) is to look for money to build the roads to connect these bridges. If we don’t do this our bridges will be bridges to nowhere,” said Masing.

Also present at the ceremony were Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Infrastructure and Port Development Assistant Minister Datuk Julaihi Narawi, State Secretary Datuk Amar Jaul Samion and Lingga assemblywoman Simoi Peri. — DayakDaily