First free electric public buses in Malaysia

The Kuching Metro Electricity Bus. Photo: Ramidi Subari

KUCHING: Sarawak has become the first state in Malaysia to offer free electric public buses with four of them to officially commence operations here starting tomorrow.

“The Electric City Bus Service is to provide convenient and free transportation alternatives for our visitors and locals by connecting some of the important visitor destinations in Kuching city,” said Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

He said the service would cover 54 bus stops looping from the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) building to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, one of the most popular visitor destinations in Kuching.

“Visitors and locals can utilise the free service to reach tourist attractions and facilities along the extended bus routes such as Kuching International Airport, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, Old Kuching Heritage Trail, private medical centres, education institutions, shopping malls, MBKS Stutong Community Market, Kuching Sentral Express Bus Terminal, and Malaysia-China Friendship Park,” he said.

He said this when officiating at the launching ceremony of the Kuching Metro Electric City Bus at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here today.

Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah officiate the launch of the Kuching Metro Electricity Bus witnessed by from left Sarawak Tourism Board CEO Sharzede Salleh Askor, Youth and Sports Assistant Minister Datuk Snowdan Lawan, Henry Lai and other dignitaries. Photo: Ramidi Subari

He said these buses would all be fully equipped with various latest technologies and facilities, including automated bus stop announcement system, real time broadcast content control system, and video passengers counter.

“They are also equipped with wheelchair facilities and priority seating, free WiFi, and six CCTV cameras installed in every bus for the safety of passengers.

“The latest feature that this Electric City Bus provides is the folding bike area where bicycle enthusiasts can hop on with their folding bike on board,” he said, noting that the buses could accommodate two folding bikes at a time.

He encouraged the public to download the Kuching Metro app so that they could monitor the location and routes of the bus in real time and utilise the free service effectively.

Henz Pacific Sdn Bhd managing director Henry Lai said the Electric City Bus Service would begin at 6am and run on a two-hour interval, with the last bus running at 4pm.

Abdul Karim said for a start, Kuching could make do with four buses and the response from commuters would be looked at.

“It is a good start with four units of Electric City Bus in Kuching and hopefully it will be increased in the years to come. We also have plans to have similar bus services for other towns and cities in Sarawak such as Sibu, Miri, and Bintulu in order to provide green transport alternatives to locals and visitors,” he said.

Elaborating on the initiative’s background, he said the Sarawak Electric City Bus Service had started in February 2019 on a trial basis with just a single bus, adding that this trial run had been well-received for its free, innovative, and green energy service.

“However, a single bus was limited in its service and route coverage. It was also subject to the risk of service disruption due to breakdown and maintenance,” he said.

Therefore, he said his ministry had proposed to have four units of these buses to cover longer routes from the original 26 bus stops to 54.

Abdul Karim (left) with Youth and Sports Assistant Minister Datuk Snowdan Lawan and Henry Lai (right) taking a ride in the newly launched Kuching Metro Electricity Bus. Photo: Ramidi Subari

He commended the state government’s efforts to provide such services free of charge for the people as well as in ensuring that the environment is kept clean through the use of green energy.

In a press conference following the launching ceremony, he said these electric-powered buses would complement other forms of public transportation in the state which utilise hydrogen and fossil fuels.

In response to a question on whether there was a limit to the duration in which the Electric City Bus Service is provided free of charge, he said this would depend on the contract with the provider and the response of the public.

Abdul Karim also assured that in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, public transportation would implement the standard operating procedure (SOP) to keep commuters safe.