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Ireka Corp sees opportunities in last-mile connectivity to public transit

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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 29): The last-mile connectivity to public transit is an area that Ireka Corp Bhd would focus on moving forward amid the growing need for an improved public transportation in the country.

"Over the last few years, a lot of mega projects have been developed in terms of reconnecting cities. We have the highways, MRT (mass rapid transit), LRT (light rail transit) and even monorail. What's missing is the last-mile now. We feel that the last-mile that is not yet fully served," Ireka group managing director Datuk Lai Voon Hon told a press conference after its annual general meeting today.

He said the focus at the moment for its core businesses, such as construction, property development and technology, is to see better integration in order to promote its urban transportation business.

"The focus is trying to see how we can integrate that to see how we can promote our urban transportation business. It will be our focus to develop this business aside from [being] busy on our core business. We see this area that is untapped and it's really needed now for our country to promote more public transportation," he added.

Lai was referring to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) and share subscription agreement signed with CRRC Urban Traffic (Europe) Co Ltd, a member of China-based CRRC Group, which will study the viability of bringing in the autonomous rail rapid transit (ART) system in Malaysia.

ART is a rail-less system for urban passenger transport, similar to other guided busways. It was developed by CRRC Zhuzhou Institute Co Ltd and unveiled in China last year. It runs on roads like a bus but only on designated paths, just like a tram. If implemented in Malaysia, it would be the first outside of China.

Other than ART, e-buses are another alternative solution for the last-mile connectivity issues. The MoU signed was for a two-year period and Lai said it is a realistic time frame for the group to obtain the relevant approvals to proceed.

As for the government's response to the proposals, Lai shared that it has been pretty positive as this represents another option on the table for the authorities.

"So far they have been very positive. The reason is because we're providing another option on the table in terms of solving the urban transportation system. Sometimes in certain areas, the government has the option of, instead of actually building a very expensive LRT, they can look at a much cheaper version in terms of the ART…Typically, an ART system is about a quarter of what a monorail would cost," he added.

In the near term, the group expects its construction arm to be the main driver of revenue. Currently, about 80% of the group's earnings come from the construction segment with the remaining 20% from property segment.

As of noon break, the Ireka shares were untraded at 59 sen, giving it a market capitalisation of RM110.2 million. — theedgemarkets.com

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