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  • Wartawan Nabalu News

Put multibillion project on hold, work out more pressing matters first

19 Dec 2021

By Wartawan Nabalu News

When Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin announced last month that a multi-billion sky train project will be implemented in the state, it has gotten mixed reactions from many parties.

This includes a group of community-led city planning advocates through the KotaKita Sabah initiative who opined that the RM2.4 billion is not feasible for now and such an amount could instead be better spent in other aspects to improve the development planning in the city.

Its founder Rashidah Kamaluddin said the existing bus system in the state should be improved first and foremost as there is no proper bus terminal around the city although the bus service is the main public transport.

“Our informal ‘bus terminals’ are located next to main road, dangerous and lack accessibility with no proper scheduling,” she said in a Twitter thread, recently.

She said instead of spending on the sky train project, the government should instead build dedicated bus terminal as well as proper bus stops and lanes, develop a mobile application for schedule and route, provide buses that are accessible and safe for all including the disabled, and expand the network to inferior area.

All of these are more low-cost yet offer better impacts, she added.

“Also, considering that our existing bus system aren’t able to be well-maintained and controlled by the state, are we sure that the much complex skytrain system can be maintained?

“We must (also) improve the existing connection first. We’ve talked about buses, but it doesn’t stand alone. One mode of transport to another must be well connected too.

“For example, we may want to walk or cycle to the terminal, so the pedestrians and cycling infrastructure must be well designed too. Or else, we might just drive a car over to the terminal then find it inconvenient or ‘alang-alang’ and ended up using the car all the way to our destination – this alone has defeated the purpose of public transport,” she explained.

“So the question of “how do people get to the terminal? How are all the different mode of travel (car, bus, cycling, walking) are connected to the skytrain? How’s the last mile journey?” must be studied, in detailed. This is why improving bus service first is vital,” she added.

According to Rashidah who graduated with a Bachelor of Science Architecture from Universiti Malaya (UM), it is not convinced whether analysis on the skytrain facility has been done properly and transparently since the Kota Kinabalu Skybridge launched last September clearly lacked study and analysis.

The sky bridge in the city when it first launched turned into a laughing stock when one of its pathways stops at a dead-end.

She also mentioned that the skytrain is not feasible since the population in Sabah is not big enough, unlike Kuala Lumpur which is known to have intricate public transport network.

She added that it is a high demand there due to the huge population of 8,211,000 (a density of 6,890 people/km²) compared to 1,092,400 (a density of 261 people/km²) in Kota Kinabalu.

“I admit that this is not the fairest comparison, but looking into this, we may question if our population number is big enough to the point that we need such complex and costly public transportation.

“And we must consider our demographic, Sabah has the highest number of citizens that fall under the poverty line. Would they be able to pay for the skytrain passenger fee that will definitely be costlier than other mode of transport?

“Then, would this skytrain be able to be inclusive for people of different background? My suggestion, the RM2.4B can be better spent on subsidising bus fee, so everyone regardless of income level can enjoy it,” she explained.

Meanwhile, Rashidah mentioned that the skytrain project will be encroaching existing infrastructure and disrupting livelihood as it means that there will be more columns, structures and hardscape in the city.

“We already have enough flyovers in the city, imagine having to add up more of those but for skytrain. That is super chaotic!

“Those structures most likely would encroach into lands with existing buildings - so that means there will be more demolishing and disruption in our city, more constructions and obstructions. Those that rely on livelihood in certain places or living in certain residential areas will have to move.

“And what I fear the most is that even our heritage buildings, green areas and beaches will suffer encroachment of these structures. Are we willing to make such very pricey sacrifices?”

With all things considered, Rashidah opined that the money for the project should be utilised on more pressing matters in Sabah, while adding that it is easy to be swayed by the idea of modernity and symbolism but the process of development must be done according to context.

“Sabah has many potentials, so we must develop it based on its strength and need, not simply because we want to copy other cities. I say: No, we don’t need skytrain. Not yet.”

On Nov 29, Bung announced that the skytrain which will link the current airport to the city centre garnered investment interest from a Hong Kong group.

The first phase of the Skytrain would span a distance of 10.5 kilometres from the airport to the city centre and the new development which is expected to be built within three years at the cost of RM1 billion. The second phase which will take three years and spans over 15 kilometres will run to the government administrative centres just outside the city to the University Malaysia Sabah and the nearby suburb.


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