Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said the reconstruction of the railroad, which had ceased operations for decades, would close the development gap between the interior and the urban areas.
He said such projects were part of the government’s efforts to bring more balanced development in Sabah, be it in the urban or rural areas.
“We need to see balanced development in all parts of Sabah so that rural folks do not have to travel out of their villages to seek a living,” he said during the groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday (March 31).
Shafie said villagers can instead focus on helping their people and their villages develop and at the same time, improve the economy of locals.
He said plans were also underway to upgrade the public transport systems in as many places as possible in Sabah, including in the interior.
He said the RM10mil Tenom-Melalap railway project has already started construction and some 200m of tracks have been built.
The reconstruction of the railway would be on the original line built in the early 1900s by the British during the colonial era.
It would connect the villagers from many interior zones far from Melalap to Tenom, and Beaufort up to Kota Kinabalu.
As for villagers that might be affected and asked to relocate due to the project, Shafie hopes they would give their full cooperation as the government would make sure they get the compensation they deserve.
Those asked to relocate, he said, will be provided with another residential alternative.