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Abang Jo is not happy with public transport & development planning. TRANSIT: Well, neither are we.

TRANSIT took note of this interesting set of articles detailing Amar Abang Johari Openg’s continued push to get a Bus Rapid Transit system built in Kuching.

Abang Jo, Satok Assemblyman and Minister of Housing and Urban Development … and possible successor to the Chief Minister of Sarawak, has been calling for the Federal Government to provide RM200 million in funding for Kuching’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit system for nearly 3 years. His most recent push was to hold a public transport conference in Kuching, inviting experts to state the obvious – that Kuching needs a better public transport system and that the Federal Government needs to support the funding.

One would think that a Federal Government that is ready to spend RM7 billion on the LRT extensions and perhaps RM50 billion on the Klang Valley MRT project could somehow find RM200 million (or even RM1bn) for Kuching, the 4th largest city in Malaysia.

On the other hand, Sarawak is the wealthiest state in the Federation of Malaysia – so perhaps one can wonder why a compromise cannot be reached, with both state and federal government investing in public transport.

Abang Jo: We are going the wrong way! (Borneo Post, 24 May 2011)

INTERACTION: Abang Johari (second right) and Abdul Wahab (right) greeting participants after opening Focus Result Delivery (FRD) Lab for Kuching Urban Public Transport session. Image courtesy of Borneo Post.

by Saiful Bahari

KUCHING: Building flyovers and widening roads would not solve traffic congestion problems. These approaches would, in fact, exacerbate the problem by inducing more traffic.

Housing and Urban Development Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said these outdated approaches need to be re-examined.

“The issue here is to manage the demand for travel by making use of existing infrastructure. We term this as a new realism in transport policy,” said Abang Johari at the opening of ‘Focus Result Delivery (FRD) Lab for Kuching Urban Public Transport’ here yesterday,

Abang Johari explained that having greater accessibility to the city would encourage more people to drive their own transport rather than using public transport as an alternative.

“There is an uncontrollable increase in car usage due to the lack of alternative transport in urban Kuching, leading to saturated and congested urban roads,” he said.

Citing examples from the United States, Abang Johari said a few cities there had resorted to dismantling flyovers and replaced them with more public buses and trains.

“What we are looking at are solutions that can be considered. For example, a terminal with parking lots at each housing estate where there would be public transport to bring the people to the city centre.”

He revealed that his ministry was continuously seeking ways to make traffic flow smoother while having greater accessibility to the city via affordable urban public transport.

“We have to find ways to ensure reliability and quick journey time, enhancing comfort and convenience while at the same time ensuring safety to the public.”

On the 5-day lab session, Abang Johari said he hoped the participants would look into issues such as integrating public transport, planning the system, regulatory instruments, body to implement, monitor and regulate and also how to make the system sustainable.

Met by reporters after the opening, Abang Johari revealed that he had requested RM200 million from the federal government to handle the issue.

“In Klang valley, around RM7 billion was allocated to solve the problems and as we are still at the initial stage I had requested for RM200 million which will include discussion sessions on potential and feasible solutions.”

Fifty five participants from both the private and public sectors are attending the lab session. These include officers from Rapid Kuching, Sarawak Transport, Public Works Department and the local councils.

Also present yesterday were Assistant Minister of Housing and Urban Development Abdul Wahab Aziz and the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Affandi Keli.


We don’t specifically know if SPAD (which only operates in Peninsular Malaysia for now) had an observer status at the lab. We certainly hope that they did, given the issues that they will ultimately have to face once they take over from the CVLB in Sarawak and Sabah.

We also hope that members of the public were invited to give feedback and participate in the labs. Otherwise, a major stakeholder group is missing from the mix.

The decision from the lab mentioned above is detailed in the next article:

Bus Rapid Transit system proposed for Kuching (Borneo Post)
Posted on May 28, 2011, Saturday

KUCHING: The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development will evaluate and analyse the proposal to implement the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in the city.

The proposal made by Kuching Urban Transport Lab has great potential for Kuching and should be pursued vigorously if conditions for success exist, said its Assistant Minister Abdul Wahab Aziz yesterday.

He revealed that to implement the BRT system, there were several requirements such as availability of wide corridor and large buses.

“The BRT system requires wide corridors. If these corridors do not exist, BRT is either not a low cost option, or may impose unacceptable level of congestion by cars and other traffic.

“And to make efficient use of road space, BRT system must employ large buses. Many Asian cities like Kuching have extensive pra-transit services (licensed vans) but these vehicles cannot be converted to suitable BRT vehicles,” he said when closing the ‘A Focus Result Delivery (FRD) Lab for Kuching Urban Public Transport.’

Wahab said a strong political leadership is necessary for the institutional strengthening of city agencies and bus operators.

In addition, he said BRT design requires considerable traffic engineering skills and adaptation of soft management as existing operations can undermine the proposal.

As BRT operations are demanding, he said operational efficiency requires constant attention and political support.


We at TRANSIT do not “marry” ourselves to one particular technology but we find that bus rapid transit would do a lot towards meeting the needs of rapid transit in Kuching. However, we do not see the value for bus rapid transit alone.

For one thing, the issue of wider corridors and operational efficiencies have to be dealt with and so far there is no example in Malaysia of any effort to deal with all of the existing inefficiencies of the public transport system – let alone rationalizing the way we use our roads, redesigning space for public transport.

Solutions have been implemented in parts because they are piecemeal – and therefore there is no hope for an holistic solution to the problem.

We are a bit disappointed that the Kuching Urban Transport lab decided on Bus Rapid Transit as a technology when there are much more important issues to deal with – especially in terms of organization, management and funding.

Since Kuching has the attention of a cabinet minister and the participation and support of the state government (something that is not yet found in Peninsular Malaysia) the lab should have taken the opportunity to look at the bigger picture of Kuching (and to a lesser extent Sarawak) public transport … and make sure that they designed an effective system of management and governance, and chose the most effective rapid transit technology for their needs.

Could we see a future where each of Sarawak’s divisions has its own local public transport system, supported and connected by the Sarawak government through a Public Transport Authority and the proposed state railway corridor?

Think of something like current system used in Western Australia, with TransWA and the Public Transport Authority at the state level with TransPerth, TransBusselton and TransGeraldton (and now TransGoldfields and TransBunbury) services at the local level.

We believe that Kuching is not ready to talk physical services yet, but we can also tell you that we believe Kuching can support an enhanced bus or Bus Rapid Transit system and a light rail / rapid tram system along the Kota Sentosa – Kuching Sentral – Kuching Airport – Waterfront – Petra Jaya corridor.

9 replies on “Abang Jo is not happy with public transport & development planning. TRANSIT: Well, neither are we.”

Sarawak is the richest state in Malaysia?? I thought Sarawak has the richest guy in Borneo and his name is Taib Mahmud and Sarawak wealth is no different from his wealth and property.

This transport issue never seems to come to an end, each party is pushing the responsibility among each other, the suffer one still the local folks!

The reason I said that is because the present Sarawak so called Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s precious son is dealing with the demand of a RM400 million divorce alimony by his “wife” and the state of Sarawak cannot even fork out RM200 million for a BRT system??? My God, this is terribly pathetic and OBVIOUS!!!!

A BRT for Kuching would be helpful, as would be a railway, although that has been suggested so many times, it’s probably not going to materialize any time soon.

What I’d like to see though, is SPAD/CVLB or some other department in Sarawak do away with the kereta sapu problem there, which is a bit of an issue in the state.

Hi Patrick

Thanks for the feedback. Whatever transport solution is devised, the most important thing is to revamp and redefine public transport within the town (ideally, with a local authority providing public transport for the entire Kuching Division) – figure out what kind of services are needed and who is capable of operating those services, then make sure that they do what they are supposed to do.

With respect to Kereta Sapu, if the market is tolerating them, that means that they have some role to play. However, the local regulator (the public transport authority) should be working to ensure that the services complement (not compete with) existing bus services.

The best way to do that is to legalize the Kereta Sapu and have them provide local feeder services instead of competing with the bus companies.

Unfortunately, SPAD has no authority in Sarawak & Sabah and we have little confidence that CVLB will do anything – so the motivation and vision will have to come out of the state government.

Regards, moaz for TRANSIT

There is one more question, can the two SEPARATE city halls (north and south) cooperate properly without having all kinds of red tapes and bureaucracy so that the BRT service can run properly. I think all of us know that the sate of Sarawak has a lot of autonomous powers when it comes to many inner state affair, even CVLB or SPAD or even Prasarana have to respect these autonomous powers or special privileges.

Hi Jeffrey

That’s a very good point -and it is quite ironic that DBKU (Kuching North) actually has both sides of the Kuching Waterfront under its belt.

On the other hand, DBKS (Kuching South) has made an effort to improve bus services in Kuching Selatan – and has the wide roads and the demand to support rapid transit. Kuching Selatan is also where the majority of future expansion is taking place, as well a where the airport & Kuching “Sentral” are located. Kuching North has wide roads (Petrajaya) but little demand and there is less opportunity for expansion.

That is why we see most of the RT service (whether BRT or Rapid Tram) will run in Kuching Selatan.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

Amar is part of his honourific title (Datuk Amar, Datuk Patinggi, Datuk Bendahara, Datuk Panglima, Datuk Paduka, Datuk Seri and whatnot), not part of his name (Abang Johari Tun Openg). Ideally I don’t think people should include Abang and Tun as their names, but… Wallahualam.

While we certainly don’t marry ourselves to one tech, BRT is the easiest. Of course, not just merely curbed buslane, but same level bus station, in-station ticketing, integration with other modes, no monopoly etc are all vital. I like the Saarbrücken picture ( especially.

During the recent Sarawak state legislature election, I saw Bernama churning out pictures of public buses in Kuching. Those non-aircond ones like Selangor or Lenseng bus in KL, with the caption saying transportation to nearby rural areas is very convenient. But what I heard from Malayan friends visiting Sarawak is, unless you have a car-driving friend, don’t even think of visiting destinations outside walking distance from your hotel in town centre. You end up spending more than the airfare to get to this and that attractions.

Coming under SPAD may or may not bring progress. But being beyond SPAD jurisdiction certainly is hardly good news. I don’t remember anywhere in Sabah 20 Points / Sarawak 17 Points (agreement to protect territorial interest while forming Malaysia in 1963) includes transportation comes under state. I know immigration and labour issues are. Anyway…

There shouldn’t be DBKU and MBKS in the first place. But they want more mayoral positions for own ethnic groups. So everything is separated. Seems like Pattanese, Mindanao Moros and Achehneses are not the only Separatists in the region.

I am all for BRT and Trams. But not just the downtown please. Borneo is extensive.

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