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Borneo, Sabah, Sarawak

424km of Pan Borneo Highway in Sarawak to be upgraded

A TOTAL of 427km of the Pan Borneo Highway in Sarawak will be given priority under an upgrade of the highway in the State and Sabah.

Sarawak will receive an initial RM50 million soon for the upgrading work, as part of the overall RM423 million to be shared by both East Malaysian states.

The two sections that will be prioritised in Sarawak are a 217km stretch between Sibu and Bintulu and the 207km stretch from Bintulu to Miri.

The Ministry of Works will construct overtaking lanes at critical areas along these stretches, especially at steep or mountain areas, to allow vehicles to overtake smoothly.

“This is because these stretches are being used daily by many commercial and heavy vehicles rushing to Bintulu and other ports in the state’s central region,”¬†Works Minister Datuk Seri Shaziman Mansor is quoted as saying.

Under the upgrading work, stretches of the highway would be resurfaced, while accident prone areas would be identified and improved.

He explained that current traffic volume of about 10,000 vehicles daily did not warrant a dual carriageway, hence the construction of overtaking lanes at priority areas.

“As a practice, we will construct dual carriageways where traffic volume is at 20,000 vehicles daily,” he said.

The Minister pointed out that this new allocation is in addition to work being done by the Economic Planning Unit, which is currently undertaking a study to locate between 90 and 100 overtaking lanes along the highway at a cost of around RM400 million.

He added that there was also a lack of response from private contractors to come forward and build a highway in Sarawak.

“Once a highway is built by a private contractor, road users will have to pay toll to use them and for their maintenance,” he said.

Good point. All those who are always comparing the Pan Borneo Highway to the Malaysian Expressway System in Malaya should remember that you have to pay tolls everywhere you go.

That’s a way of life over there in Malaya. Here in Kuching, the only toll we pay is to cross the Tun Salahuddin Toll Bridge. And that is out of convenience. If we don’t wish to pay, there are two free ways to get to our destination, albeit a little longer in distance depending on where you are.

Most of the time in Malaya, it is almost impossible not to use the expressway if you wish to get anywhere on time — and even then you are probably going to be stuck in a jam for ages. To top it all off, you have to pay tolls all the way to your destination.

Let’s say you want to drive your car from Alor Setar to Yong Peng at a distance of 643KM, you would need to pay RM88.30 along the PLUS Expressway.

If you drove from Bintulu to Kuching, a distance of over 600KM, you pay no tolls at the moment.

I know you’re complaining that the Expressway drive is completely different to the one along the Pan Borneo, but let me remind you that in Malaya, private contractors built the expressways.

Why don’t private contractors want to build expressways here? Would you? The volume of vehicles does not justify the billions that would have to be poured in to construct the roads and later maintain it. You won’t get a return on your investment for a very, very, very, very (you get the idea) long time, if at all.

Let’s not forget that the terrain and soil structure in Sarawak and Sabah are very different from that in Malaya. Hence construction and maintenance costs would be much higher.

Besides, I can hear the complaints now if stretches of the Pan Borneo Highway were to have tolls. Especially from those of us whose villages are located along the highway and would have to pay every time we wanted to go home!

Having overtaking lanes at necessary stretches makes good economic sense. As we all know the Pan Borneo Highways is busiest during festive seasons when everyone is trying to get back to their villages and longhouses.

On average though, we don’t have the population to justify the construction and maintenance of a dual carriageway — there are around 5.68 million of us in Sabah and Sarawak. The total population of Selangor alone is 5.46 million.

Now certain quarters can promise you the world, but ask yourself this, if they are actually in power, they will then need to work out the math. What do you think they would do then once the reality sets in?

The Bernama story:

RM423mil to upgrade Pan Borneo Highway: Shaziman

MIRI: The Federal government has allocated RM423mil to upgrade the Pan Borneo Highway from Sabah to Sarawak, said Works Minister Datuk Seri Shaziman Mansor.

To begin with, an initial sum of RM100mil would be made available soon and shared equally between the two states, Shaziman told reporters here.

He said for Sarawak, the 217km stretch between Sibu and Bintulu and the 207km stretch from Bintulu to Miri would be given priority.

“This is because these stretches are being used daily by many commercial and heavy vehicles rushing to Bintulu and other ports in the state’s central region.

“We will construct overtaking lanes at critical areas in these stretches, especially at steep or mountain areas, to allow ordinary vehicles to overtake the heavy ones smoothly.

“We will not wait for the conclusion of a current study by the Economic Planning Unit which is still studying the location for between 90 to 100 overtaking lanes along the highway, estimated to cost RM400mil,” he said.

Shaziman said the stretches would be resurfaced while accident prone areas would be identified and improved.

Some might question why the government had chosen to do only upgrading work and not turn the road into a dual carriage way but such a decision was made because the current traffic volume at about 10,000 vehicles daily does not warrant such a need, he said.

“As a practice, we will construct dual carriageways where traffic volume is at 20,000 vehicles daily,” he said adding that there was also a lack of response from private contractors to come forward and build a highway in the state.

“Once a highway is built by a private contractor, road users will have to pay toll to use them and for their maintenance,” he said.

He gave his assurance that the federal government would continue to upgrade roads in the state when the need arise.

The Pan Borneo Highway passes through Sematan, Kuching, Miri and Lawas in Sarawak before cutting through various districts in Sabah including Sindumin, Beaufort, Kimanis, Kota Kinabalu and Tawau. BERNAMA

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