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KUCHING: Members of the public welcome the impending construction of the light rail transit (LRT) project from Kuching to Kota Samarahan but suggest an improvement in the public transport for the time being.

Akmal Firdaus Adib, a post-graduate student from a local institute of higher learning, said, “The effort is brilliant but the current road has to be upgraded to control the ongoing traffic problems.

Akmal Firdaus Adib

“The most important thing to do is to address the bottleneck issue. This is by expanding the lanes and adding specific routes in some places.

“It takes a long time for the LRT project to be completed, maybe 5-10 years or even more. The people will have to wait to see the impact brought by the project,” he added.

Lamenting the poor quality of public transport in Kuching, Akmal said in the meantime, the best solution to the traffic congestion problem between Kota Samarahan and Kuching City was to upgrade the public transport services.

He also pointed that at the same time, the range of the routes needed to be expanded and more stations should be added at crucial places.

“A lot of people are complaining about the poor quality of public transport. But on the other hand, there is a small chance that few people are using the buses due to the presence of pick-up services such as Grab.

“The services make it more convenient to get around and reduce the need to use public transport,” he added.

Ahmad Mustaqim Roslan, a 24-year-old research assistant, echoed Akmal’s views.

Like Akmal, he welcomed the impending LRT project as “a great idea by the Chief Minister which will provide an alternative form of transport for the public.”

Ahmad Mustaqim Roslan

“It can reduce the traffic jam during the peak hours and in terms of waiting time, it should be shorter as the LRT follows specific operating hours.

“However, it will be the best if the state government can improve the bus services first for the convenience of the people in the short term,” he added.

Like Akmal, Ahmad felt many members of the public were not using public transport because of the rise of e-hailing services such as Grab.

However, public transport may still be popular among the lower income groups.

“I am not surprised when people criticise the quality of public transport here in Kuching.

“I often see some old buses still operating on the road when I’m driving. These buses are unsafe and uncomfortable to ride on.

“Another issue is the long waiting time. People often complain that the buses or vans arrive late and the waiting time is inconsistent. This is probably due to the lack of proper schedules,” he added.

Ahmad pointed out that some of the drivers would wait for the vans to be fully occupied before starting their trips.

“This frustrates the people even more as they have to wait and endure the inconsistent service.

“The best way to resolve this problem is modernise the bus service, retire the old buses and replace them with new ones.

“Alternatively, the Sarawak government can come up with its own ride-sharing programme to compete with Grab,” he said.

Ruth Edwin Brundang, an IT analyst, also thinks that the public transport in Kuching needs to be improved immensely.

Ruth Edwin Brundang

“I have to concur with the public opinion as the public transport system is nowhere as efficient and readily available as those in other countries,” she said

“We are way behind countries such as United States, Japan, Singapore and many others in terms of public transport.”

Ruth pointed out that the state government should allocate more budget to conduct studies to improve the public transport in the state.

“The upcoming LRT project announced by Abang Johari is a good effort to further modernise the state of Sarawak.

“Besides modernising the state, it also offers an alternative to bus commuters that make up a huge portion of the public transport users,” added Ruth.