Abang Johari (centre) scans his fare pass as he boards for the hydrogen-powered ART prototype vehicle. – Photo by Information Department

KUCHING (Sept 6): Sarawak has ordered 38 units of Autonomous Rapid Transit (ART) vehicles  to transform the state’s public transportation system, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He explained these ART vehicles will arrive from China upon the successful completion of the Kuching Isthmus engineering run and Proof-of-Concept (POC) exercise.

He however did not reveal the costs involved for the purchase of the 38 ART vehicles.

“This (the hydrogen-powered prototype ART vehicle) one has arrived and it will be followed by the rest when we complete the POC. Once it (POC) is done successfully, then the rest will be coming,” he told a press conference after the official launch of the engineering run and Stage 2 of the POC exercise for the prototype ART vehicle here today.

He and several members of the Sarawak cabinet including Deputy Premiers Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, went on a test ride of the prototype ART vehicle together with other invited guests, along the engineering run route at the Kuching Isthmus

According to Abang Johari, the 38 ART vehicles will provide efficient coverage of the three ART lines in Kuching, namely the Red Line, Green Line and Blue Line.

To a question, he said the commercial run of the ART will begin by the end of the year of 2025

He revealed there will be a trial period before the commencement of the commercial run.

“But don’t complain during the trial. Some people already complained it is like a big bus. It is really a big bus, a combination hybrid of bus and train. But for me, as long as it can accommodate big volume of passengers, and it runs on schedule and affordable,” he said.

He also said the fare for the ART upon its commencement of service will be decided later and he pledged it will not be a burden to the public.

“Initially there will be special fare to encourage people to use public transport,” he said.

He also said the stations for the ART will be developed under the Sarawak model, and not necessarily follow the model already used in Kuala Lumpur (KL) public transportation model.

“We will not follow KL, we will have our own Sarawak model which is convenient to the public. There will be hydrogen feeder buses for those going to and exiting the station, which will ease traffic congestion and will be convenient for those coming from Samarahan going to Kuching.

“If follow KL, ‘susah’ (difficult). Do you remember KL used to have those mini buses,” he said.

He also said the ART system represents the investment put in by the Sarawak government in transforming the public transportation which will benefit the people in the long run.

He also believed this will enable the development of housing estates where public transport is convenient.

“It will be connecting Samarahan up to Kuching. The benefit is this – 1, it will be used by the public; 2, the low income people will be able to have a flexible and affordable mobility within Kuching; 3, it is also tourist friendly meaning they can go to a destination using ART such going from Kuching to Damai; and 4, the fare is going to be consistent and payment can be made through SPay Global which is convenient,” he said.

Describing the test ride today, he said it was comfortable despite there were many passengers on board the three carriages.

“There were many passengers but it was a test. So it was running quite well,” he said.

To a question, he said the ART tram can be extended from the normal three carriages to a maximum five per vehicle if there is demand.

He also said special compartments can be considered for those bringing livestock and plants, after he was asked on needs for passengers who wanted to bring back durians from Serian.