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Pan Borneo Highway project continues under Pakatan government

KUCHING, Dec 30 — The mega Sarawak Pan Borneo Highway project stretching over a distance of almost 800 kilometres from Telok Melano — Sematan to Lawas, has continued to be implemented in 2019 in line with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s aspiration to provide better infrastructure and connectivity similar to that of the peninsula to the people in Sarawak.

The project is currently underway encompassing 11 phases, most of which involves work to upgrade federal roads from two to four lanes except the Melano-Sematan stretch, which is the only new road being built at the request of former Chief Minister the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

Works Minister Baru Bian described the Pan Borneo project as one of the greatest engineering projects in the Borneo Islands which would not impose toll collection either in Sarawak or Sabah.

On January 4, the RM580 million Teluk Melano-Sematan 33km-long alignment at the southern tip of Sarawak was completed and officially opened to the public.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, at the launching ceremony in January, said the opening of Telok Melano’s route indirectly opened up economic opportunities in the area, especially in the ecotourism sector.

Expressing his gratitude to the PH government through Works Minister Baru Bian for continuing the Pan Borneo Highway project in Sarawak, Abang Johari said: “When there is a change in the federal government, Baru Bian is appointed (as minister of Works) no issue of political differences, we are united because of Sarawak.”

The entire Sarawak Pan Borneo Highway project, which is scheduled to be completed by June 2021, involves the construction of 115 bridges, 25 elevated interchanges, three rest and service areas and six lay-bys.

The project, however, saw a change in the project delivery partner (PDP) model when the federal government issued a termination letter to the Lebuhraya Borneo Utara Sdn Bhd (LBU), the delivery partner of the Pan Borneo Highway project in Sarawak on Sept 20.

Despite the termination, all the 11 work package contracts (WPCs) for the 786.41km highway on the Sarawak side were continued by previously appointed contractors.

According to Baru, the change in the PDP model saved RM1.25 billion of the federal government’s money in line with its efforts to optimise the cost of projects.

In fact, he said the change in the PDP model for the Pan Borneo Highway in Sarawak would not affect the scope, safety and continuity of the project.

Baru said his ministry and the Sarawak Public Works Department would make optimal use of the existing technical expertise in the implementation of the project the conventional way.

“This is in line with the government’s efforts to optimise the cost of projects that have a high impact to the country. The implementation mechanism of the Pan Borneo Highway project in Sarawak has been reviewed by retaining the specifications and original scope,” he said.

As of September 30, the overall physical development progress for Phase 1 of the Sarawak Pan Borneo Highway Project involving the alignment from Telok Melano to Miri was 41 per cent completed, a little behind from the scheduled 43 per cent.

On November 6, Baru announced that he received complaints from the contractors that they had not been paid by LBU from July till September this year and that the late payment of claims to those contractors has resulted in delays to the Sarawak Pan Borneo Highway project.

Baru said once the ministry takes over the project in February next year, they would try their best to make all payments to the contractors within 30 days. — Bernama