Posted on 11 Jan 2023
Source of News: The Borneo Post



KUCHING (Jan 11): Sarawak Metro Sdn Bhd (Sarawak Metro) is looking forward to the development of phase 1 of the Kuching Urban Transportation System (KUTS) project this year.

According to KUTS project director, Zafrin Zakaria, this would be the proof-of-concept (POC) exercise for the ART (Autonomous Rapid Transit) in Kuching, scheduled in the third quarter of this year.

“This will also be the first opportunity for locals to have a look at the ART vehicle,” Zafrin said during his presentation at the ‘Sustainable Future Conference’ organised by Curtin Academy at the Curtin University, Malaysia campus in Miri yesterday.

He added that the milestones expected to be charted in 2023 will be built upon last year’s achievements, which included signing of letters of award for the KUTS Project’s System Package 1 and System Package 2 (July and November respectively), as well as the start of construction works that began with the advanced works for the ART depot in Rembus, Kota Samarahan in the fourth quarter of last year.

The official launch of Phase 1 of the KUTS Project was also held last December, coinciding with the start of the advanced works for the Rembus Depot.

He also highlighted that Sarawak Metro’s efforts in modernising the public transport system in Kuching was also in tandem with the Sarawak government’s initiative to decarbonise public transportation through the adoption of zero emission vehicles.

“The ART vehicle will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells; an effort that we are aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) on climate change,” he said.

Sarawak Metro, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), is developing three lines under Phase 1 of the KUTS Project, namely: Blue Line from Rembus in Kota Samarahan to Hikmah Exchange in Kuching City, covering a distance of 27.6 km; the Red Line from Kuching Sentral to Pending (12.3 km); and the Green Line from Pending to Damai Central in Santubong (30 km).

The proposed routes for the three lines, totalling 69.9 km, will be constructed mostly at road level (at-grade), while less than 20 per cent of the alignment will be elevated.

He said, apart from easing traffic congestion in Greater Kuching, the aim of developing a modern public transportation network is also to support the government’s future development plans, citing the Green Line as an example of aligning the goals of the project with the aspirations to realise the full potential of the Damai Peninsula Master Plan, which will be implemented by SEDC.

“The ART will support the major development in this seaside resort area and we expect greater ridership demand in the area in the future.”

The participants of the Sustainable Future Conference were also informed that the ART vehicle is a hybrid vehicle, a cross between a train, a bus and a tram, powered by hydrogen fuel cells, uses rubber tyres and runs on virtual tracks on dedicated lanes.

“The ART that we will use for the KUTS project will have three car coaches and each can accommodate 100 passengers.

“The ART is designed with multi-axles and can move bi-directionally, allowing for a higher degree of flexibility to manoeuvre,” Zafrin explained.

He also disclosed that the ART can run on normal road surfaces and has a design speed of up to 70km per hour.

“Although our ART is autonomous to a certain degree, the current legislations do not allow driverless operations of any vehicle on the roads; hence, a person at the wheel of our ART is still needed.

“Since the ART vehicles are trackless, this also allows us the opportunity to create special routes to further improve convenience for our passengers.”

As for the ART depot in Rembus, Zafrin explained that it will be built on an 80-acre site and will have facilities like stabling yard, administration and operation control centre, mechanical workshop, infrastructure workshop and refuelling facilities.

“We will also have the feeder bus depot and a hydrogen production plant on the same site,” he said.

Sarawak Metro’s hydrogen powered feeder buses will operate within a 3km radius from the ART stations; to complement the ART in providing the first-mile and last-mile connectivity.

Another of SEDC’s wholly-owned subsidiaries, SEDC Energy Sdn Bhd, has been entrusted to construct and operate the hydrogen production plant next to the ART and feeder bus depot, to ensure sufficient supply of green hydrogen for the ART and feeder buses operation.

While Sarawak Metro focuses on providing a modern and reliable public transportation system for Greater Kuching, it also aims to add value to the project by creating a platform for the transfer of technology and know-how through its Socio-Economic Enhancement Development (SEED) Programme and the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) approach, to generate greater economic opportunities for local businesses.

Zafrin also said a few locations along the alignment had already been identified as potential TOD areas which are near the Pending station and the interchange station at Simpang Tiga.

As for the SEED Programme, the three key focus areas are the assembly plant and localisation initiative; the centre of excellence initiative, and the readiness programme initiative.

The Borneo Post