The downpour did not stop Abang Johari from enjoying a test ride in the ART vehicle with his colleagues. – Photo by Roystein Emmor

KUCHING (Sept 6): The downpour this afternoon did not stop Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg from having a feel of the hydrogen-powered Autonomous Rapid Transit (ART) vehicle during a test ride of the prototype today.

He and several other invited guests including Deputy Premiers Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian were among the first to get a test ride of the vehicle during the official launch of the prototype ART hydrogen-powered vehicle engineering run and Stage 2 of the proof-of-concept (POC) exercise along the Kuching Isthmus route.

Prior to the ride, Abang Johari was briefed on the engineering run and Stage 2 of the POC exercise by Sarawak Metro chief executive officer Mazli Mustaffa.

The launch was also attended by Minister of Transport Dato Sri Lee Kim Shin, State Secretary Datuk Amar Abu Bakar Marzuki, and Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) chairman Tan Sri Datuk Amar Abdul Aziz Hussain, who is also Sarawak Metro chairman.

Sarawak Metro in a media release said the engineering run will be carried out from September to October, and the route is a loop along Jalan Keruing passing Menara LCDA, Menara SEDC, Menara Sarawak Energy and the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK).

The engineering run is to refine the specification of the ART unit and also to identify any potential issues before proceeding with the POC exercise.

It is also to assess and appraise the performance and the functionality of the ART vehicle, through the prototype unit.

Abang Johari ( left) checks the interior of the ART prototype vehicle, followed by Lee and Uggah. – Photo by Information Department

Stage 2 of the POC exercise will be carried out in November, and the focus of this exercise would be to gather data to evaluate the feasibility of the prototype for the final design of the ART unit.

The POC exercise will be conducted on a 3-kilometre dedicated double lane built between two roundabouts along the Kuching-Samarahan Expressway.

This stretch will form a section of the permanent dedicated double lane built for the Kuching Urban Transportation System (KUTS) project’s Blue Line.

Stage 1 of the POC exercise was conducted in March at the CRRC Zhuzhou Institute Co Ltd facility in Hunan province, China.

CRRC Zhuzhou Institute Co Ltd developed the prototype ART hydrogen vehicle, which was brought to Kuching by EPR Mobilus GR JV Sdn Bhd, the KUTS project’s System Package 1 contractor.

During both the engineering run and the POC exercise, selected stakeholders will be invited to take test rides on the prototype ART hydrogen vehicle.

The test rides will also serve the purpose of data collection for Malaysia Institute of Transport (MITRANS), which will carry out a study and survey during the engineering run and POC exercise.

The zero-emission ART vehicle is the backbone of the KUTS project, to ease traffic congestion and to modernise public transport in Sarawak.

The hydrogen-powered vehicle runs on rubber tyres and hence the dedicated lanes will be trackless. As such will not share the road with other road users.

The lanes will either be at-grade (road level) or elevated.

Abang Johari (second left) being briefed by Mazli Mustaffa. – Photo by Information Department

The ART operation will be supported by a feeder bus network, which will also use hydrogen-powered vehicles to offer the ‘first mile and last mile’ connectivity for commuters.

The move to use hydrogen is in support of the Sarawak government’s aspirations to advance the hydrogen economy and to decarbonise public transport in the state.

Sarawak Metro, a wholly owned subsidiary of SEDC, has been entrusted by the state government to implement and develop the KUTS project.

The project is being developed in phases and Phase 1 includes the development of three lines – the Blue Line from Rembus in Kota Samarahan to Hikmah Exchange in the city centre; the Red Line, from Kuching Sentral to Pending; and the Green Line, from Pending to Damai.

Phase 1 of the KUTS project is scheduled to start operation in stages, from the fourth quarter of 2025.