The groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a bridge linking Brunei and Sarawak, Malaysia, across Sungai Pandaruan, a joint venture project between the Government of Brunei and Malaysia, was held yesterday at a construction site in Limbang.
The Sultanate was represented by Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications, Dato Paduka Haji Awang Alaihuddin bin Pehin Orang Kaya Digadong Seri Lela Dato Seri Utama Haji Awg Mohd Taha, while the Malaysian Government was represented by Datuk Himmat Singh, Secretary-General at the Ministry of Works.
Also present at the event were senior officials from the Ministry of Communications, Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Development and Ministry of Home Affairs.
The superstructure of this 14-metre-wide, 189.126-metre-long transboundary bridge currently being constructed at Sungai Pandaruan connecting Temburong, better known as the 'Friendship Bridge', will act as a catalyst for more economic development and spin-offs.
The cost of the construction (more than RM20 million) is shared by Brunei and Malaysia and will ease the frustrating snail-paced traffic congestion at the river crossing, which is currently only possible through ferry services. Hundreds and thousands of private and commercial vehicles cross the transboundary river every year.
The Malaysian Ministry of Works' Secretary-General said the bridge will ultimately substitute ferry services at the Pandaruan River, the last of ferry services operated in the Pan Borneo road link. It is not just a significant gesture but will also serve as a catalyst for growth. Its construction was signed by Brunei's Minister of Communications and Malaysia's Minister of Works last year and witnessed by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
The bridge, which will be toll free, according to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications, is hailed as the "missing link" tipped to provide economic spin-offs in BIMP-EAGA cooperation serving in terms of facilitating transportation, tourism and other areas of current and future cooperation potential under the spirit of Asean connectivity aspiration.
Dato Paduka Hj Awg Alaihuddin told the media after the groundbreaking ceremony held on the Limbang side of the 'Friendship Bridge' yesterday, that the bridge will enhance connectivity by facilitating travel between travellers of both countries as well as families that dwell on either side of the river. It will no doubt ease heavy traffic as thousands of people cross the river every day, reducing downtime in travel for commercial vehicles, as well.
Dato Paduka Hj Awg Alaihuddin expressed high hopes that the bridge will be ready in around 15 months time. The work on its construction started on May 15, 2012 and is scheduled to be completed by August 14, 2013.
The bridge, a joint project signed bilaterally by both nations last year on September 12, 2011 has its construction works carried out by Perkerja Piasau Konkreit Sdn Bhd.
Dato Paduka Hj Awg Alaihuddin said the bridge is crucial and extremely important to strengthen relations between the two nations as well as between the two peoples and families separated by borderline crossing.
The bridge will have a 5.5-metre navigational clearance (from highest level to soffit of beams). It is built on a superstructure with precast concrete beams, in-situ reinforced concrete slabs.
Malaysian Ministry of Works' Secretary-General said both Brunei and Malaysia aim to have the bridge ready by November 2013, when Brunei hosts the Asean Summit. It will serve as a symbol of another success in the connectivity agenda in bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries.
The bridge costing RM20,801,468.86 will link Limbang in Sarawak, Malaysia and Temburong in Brunei.