Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Bung Moktar Radin said that the multi-billion ringgit project had been in the offing for a few years and recently garnered investment interest from a Hong Kong group.

“I think this will be good for Sabah in the future. It will be a game changer for the state’s economy,” he said after witnessing the signing of the memorandum of understanding between the four firms here today.

The Skytrain is part of a deal between four firms, involving a subsidiary of the state’s government investment arm, Qhazanah Sabah Bhd.

Warisan Harta Sdn Bhd (WVSB), Vizione Construction Sdn Bhd, Sycal Skycity Sdn Bhd and Guangcai China (M) Sdn Bhd are involved in the four-way partnership that will see not only the building of the first rapid transit system in Borneo but also a mixed commercial development called Jesselton New City.

The first phase of the Skytrain would span a distance of 10.5 kilometres from the airport to the city centre and the new development which is expected to be built within three years at the cost of RM1 billion.

The second phase which will take three years and spans over 15 kilometres will run to the government administrative centres just outside the city to the University Malaysia Sabah and the nearby suburb.

According to Bung, the 64-hectare Jesselton New City is expected to be located near the Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC) in Likas Bay, over the sea that may see the building of a theme park among other attractions.

“Before, people went to Genting and Langkawi for attractions so now Sabah has the opportunity,” he said.

When asked whether he was worried about public pushback on the project, he said that it was common for people to object at first, but eventually, they will be able to enjoy the new attractions, and it would not affect public access to Likas Bay.

“There may be a bit of reclamation but only a bit, but it would have to go through an environmental impact assessment first,” he said.

“I don’t think it would impact the ecosystem, it is solar powered,” he said when asked about environmental concerns.

He said he would be visiting factories in China to see models of how the train would operate and is confident of a groundbreaking ceremony in February.

In a statement, WVSB said that the initial proposal was for a concession management to operate the Skytrain service through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) in which a stake shall be in the form of free shares and be owned by the state government.

On the new development, WVSB said the project would be to reciprocate the investors in the joint venture company.

“The terms and conditions for the joint venture will be refined accordingly upon further studies and discussions by the group of investors and subject to government approval,” it said.