KUCHING, May 24 — Sarawak Minister of Transport Datuk Seri Lee Kim Shin today rubbished an Opposition allegation that the Autonomous Rapid Transit (ART) in Kuching City was a political decision by Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg when he became the state’s chief minister (now premier) in 2017.

He said Abang Johari mooted the idea in 2009 when he was the housing and urban development minister, as he was thinking ahead about improving and modernising the transport system in Sarawak, especially Kuching City.

“Therefore, the allegation by the state DAP lawmaker for Pending, Violet Yong, was unfounded and baseless,” Lee said in his winding-up speech in the state assembly.

He said a feasibility study on the Kuching Urban Transport System (KUTS) was carried out in 2017 by Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) and completed in 2018.

“The study was carried out by competent consultants who concluded that an urban public transport system was needed to address Kuching’s growing population and the corresponding increase in the number of trips by motor vehicles on the road.

“The demand for a reliable and efficient transport system was deduced from the same feasibility study,” Lee said.

He said the feasibility study also recommended that the ART stations are based on the demand for public transport and the ridership was modelled during the scheme design for the proposed KUTS project.

He said the implementing agency Sarawak Metro Sdn Bhd has engaged with stakeholders, especially the public, adding that the findings and other important elements of the study on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) were made public during the EIA Public Display from August to September 2021.

He said the findings can also be found on the websites of Sarawak Metro Sdn Bhd, Department of Environment, Malaysia and linked through national and local newspapers.

Lee said KUTS is envisioned to be the backbone of a modern and green public transport system for Greater Kuching, with the main component being ART, which will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells and will run on virtual tracks.

He said the ART project comprises two lines, namely Samarahan Line from Rembus to Hikmah Exchange stretching 28km and passing through 14 stations, and Serian Line from Mile 12 to Isthmus with a length of 24km passing through 13 stations.

“At the moment, three locations for the proposed Transit Oriented Development or TOD have been identified and expected to increase in the future especially upon the completion and operation of the ART,” he said.

Lee said the state government will not abandon the ART project but instead to concentrate only on stage bus services as suggested by Yong.

He said the suggestion shows Yong’s lack of knowledge and understanding in developing a good and advanced transport system.

“Don’t you want to have a multimodal and modern transport system for Kuching City where you can travel conveniently either by ART, modern stage bus powered by hydrogen fuel cell or electricity and even non-motorised vehicles?” Lee asked her.