‘Why build LRT in remote, sparsely populated areas?’

The overall map of the proposed LRT lines.

KUCHING, March 30: Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei questions the rationale behind Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s decision to build a light rail transit (LRT) system in remote and sparsely populated areas and ignoring populated areas such as Batu Kawa and Matang.

He also questioned the basis of its projected construction cost which was announced as RM10.8 billion.

Wong expressed his support for the LRT project but pointed out weaknesses in the LRT plan which Abang Johari unveiled yesterday.

The Democratic Action Party (DAP) assemblyman said that LRT was not meant for travelling at high speeds and thus is not a suitable means of transport for distance travel. With the LRT traveling at a slower speed, commuters would end up preferring to use private transport.

“Instead of LRT, a High Speed Railway is an appropriate mode to travel to Serian, Damai, Lundu and any other townships in Sarawak, as there is no densely populated areas in between which require frequent stoppage.

“That was why when the Chief Minister announced few days ago, that it would take 1 hour to get to Serian with LRT, many people made fun of the LRT plan.

“It is because it takes only 45 minutes to get to Serian by road. I have reason to believe that by then many people will still travel by road to Serian due to the costs to travel by LRT to such a far distance will be very high,” said Wong.

He added the LRT was not meant for cargo but for passengers only and thus Abang Johari’s plan in building the LRT in a remote place for transporting passengers will be a huge waste and is not practical.

Wong said the present “mobility behaviour” of Kuching residents showed that a bus rapid transit would be a more effective mode of transport.

“The Demand Analysis on the corridor of the LRT should not be based on the population, but on the ‘mobility behavior’ of Kuchingnites. Therefore, the Chief Minister’s LRT plan which is based on population to identify the demand corridor is totally wrong.

“In the current situation, 97 per cent of Kuchingnites use motorised vehicles in mobilising themselves, while only one per cent are travelling by public bus. Any transportation expert will say it is impossible to know how the public transport commuting attitude is.

“Only through the execution of a bus network in the first place, can we know which areas to give priority to the construction of the LRT. The bus network, which I propose, is BRT, which is tantamount to ‘LRT on the road’.

“BRT is much cheaper, in both construction and operation, than LRT and highly adjustable in meeting demand. Only by observing the commuting attitude towards buses, then we can build a more effective and complete LRT network,” said Wong. — DayakDaily