To paraphrase the famous saying, “There is no such thing as a free ride”, Sarawak’s Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s initiative to waive the Lanang Bridge toll has provided just this – a toll free ride into Sibu that reduces the burden on the people and provides a catalyst for investment, development and economic growth.
3 million vehicles use the Lanang bridge every year as well as commuters and traders from Sibu to Bintangor and Sarikei, and they will all greatly benefit from the reduction in their operating costs, especially those that make the trip in and out of Sibu a few times a day. Rose Wong, a teacher, said, “I use the bridge 15 times a month for about four years and I could feel the burden, especially in my first year of being a teacher when I used the bridge twice a day.”
Bingtangor’s James Wong Hua Kiong, who operates the Sungai Siang Ferry, commented with a smile on his face, “A wall has been torn down. People are no longer weighed down by the cost of frequent travel (across the bridge).”
One of the problems of Sarawak’s central region is its inhospitable terrain that makes investment in infrastructure far more complex and expensive than it is in other more accessible areas of the country. Sibu, for instance, is considered the only town in Malaysia that has four major bridges – Durin, Igan, Lobaan and Lanang. These bridges come at significant cost to the country.
But the Government appreciates the burden these tolls have on the economic livelihood of the people and stimulating economic activity begins with abolishing these tolls.
In addition to improving the local economy, the knock on effect has the potential to improve road safety, inter village collaboration and tourism. Over time, it may also reduce the migration of Sarawakian graduates to more developed areas due to better employment opportunities.
But one thing is certain, the abolishment of the toll will be welcomed by all who use the Lanang bridge.