Are Sarawakians taken for a ride over hydrogen bus services?

By Emma Victoria

SARAWAK DAP has urged the state government to come clean on the hydrogen bus services in Kuching, which have not resumed operations despite the government easing travel restrictions.

The party’s Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said he and a team from Sarawak DAP this morning had visited a bus stop along the route which the buses were scheduled to pass through, only to learn that the services were still not available.

“We have yet to see any of these hydrogen buses start operating,” he said, adding that bus services are now allowed to operate.

The hydrogen bus services was launched early this year, offering locals and tourists free rides on two routes with stops near various attractions in the city.

It is a joint effort undertaken by the state Transport Ministry and Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) to promote a reliable, affordable, safe and eco-friendly public transportation system in Sarawak.

Three hydrogen buses were scheduled to run from 7am to 7pm daily.

However, Yii questioned the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the vehicles compared with the common electric bus, especially since the state government had announced plans to expand the use of hydrogen buses state-wide.

“If the state government intends to restart the usage of such buses in the near future, then it is imperative that it reveals the cost- effectiveness of using such buses and how much it cost per-km for the bus to travel in comparison to the common electric bus.

“This is especially so since the cost of a hydrogen bus is almost double the cost of a common electric bus, which is about RM 1.2 million per bus.

“Besides, how much is the maintenance of such services annually?” he asked. 

Dr Yii also questioned the rationale for using hydrogen buses since Sarawak is rich in hydroelectric energy. Electric buses, he added, can easily charge using the grid anywhere, anytime, without investing in a non-existent hydrogen infrastructure and distribution network.

“Wouldn’t investing in battery technology be more pragmatic and have more potential in comparison especially taking into account of our local strength especially in hydroelectric,” he said in a statement.

The lawmaker also urged the state government to be more transparent including revealing the cost of the project, contract details with the said company involved and most importantly the economic feasibility study and cost-effectiveness analysis of the usage of these hydrogen buses.

This is in comparison to other renewable energy-powered buses including the common electric buses – taking into account the cost of the supporting system to implement such services, which include refueling stations, research centre, maintenance, cost of the bus, among others.

“I believed all these questions must be answered as it involves public interest and the people’s money,” he said,

“We have to be pragmatic in addressing the core issues of public transportation in Sarawak.

“We already have readily available renewable and sustainable energy through all the mega dams in the state that can be pumped directly into a cheaper and simpler alternative, which is the common electric bus,” he added.