WITH an estimated 17.5 million registered motor vehicles using its roads in 2014, an increase from 16 million the previous year, headlines labelling Jakarta as having the "worst traffic in the world," should come as no surprise to residents or anyone who has visited the Indonesian capital in recent years.


Jakarta JulyStories of two-hour commutes to work are not uncommon. And while most say they would happily use the bus or the train, a lack of public transport options in this vast metropolitan area, which is home to an estimated 26 million people, is forcing people into their cars and onto their motorbikes.

Jakarta governor Mr Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama recognised the extent of the problem earlier this year when he agreed with the assertions of a study that the city's traffic is among the worst in the world, conceding that "so long as Jakarta doesn't have a decent rail-based mass transit system, we will always be congested."

Thankfully some relief will be at hand in early 2019 with the start of commercial operations on the city's inaugural metro line, the 15.7km link from Lebak Bulus in south Jakarta to Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in the city centre.

Construction on the 1067mm-gauge line, which will be electrified at 1500V dc, got underway in October 2013. The project consists of a 6km underground section with six stations from Bundaran Hotel Indonesia to Senayan, and a 9.7km elevated section with seven stations from Sisingamangaraja to Lebak Bulus. Work was estimated to be 48.48% complete on May 31, with elevated structures and tunnels 65.02% complete while the depot at Lebak Bulus, which is also the site of the terminus station and a larger transport hub, was 32.09% complete.

"This project is a must, I would say," says Mr Dono Boestami, president and director of MRT Jakarta. "It is not a matter of choice, or if it is feasible or not, we have to have it otherwise the mobility of the people will continue to go backwards, the economic consequences of which are so huge, that we have no choice but to do it."

The project is divided into eight works packages - three underground civil works, three elevated civil works, E&M systems and rolling stock - all of which were awarded to Japanese-led consortia under the terms of the financing agreement for the project.

MRT Jakarta awarded a consortium of Sumitomo Corporation and Nippon Sharyo a Yen 13bn ($US 123m) contract in March 2015 for 16 six-car trains, which can each accommodate up to 1950 passengers. Nippon Signal is supplying CBTC, which will offer five minute headways and capacity for 173,000 passengers per day along with Automatic Train Supervision, Automatic Train Protection and electronic interlockings. It will also provide ticketing systems for the line as a subcontractor to the Metro One Consortium.

The line is budgeted at $US 1.5bn with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (Jica) providing a Yen 125bn ($US 1.18bn) soft loan with the city government covering the remaining costs of the project, while it is responsible for repaying 51% of the loan. The national government will repay the remaining 49% share.

Referring to construction challenges, Boestami, who was speaking exclusively to IRJ at the UITP Asia-Pacific Assembly in Kuala Lumpur on May 17, said that the silky clay soil has proven problematic with tunnelling. The relatively small working area due to the restrictions associated with working in a densely-populated urban environment, resulting in strict traffic management, has also been difficult.

He adds that working with so many government agencies responsible for different elements of the project is the most significant non-technical challenge; from working with the finance ministry which is overseeing funding to the transport ministry which is responsible for regulation.

"We are using new systems, the latest technology from the railway industry from around the world, such as CBTC and automatic train operation, as our system is practically driverless yet some of the regulations are not in place yet so this is a problem," Boestami says. "Then there is the interior ministry because we are state owned and owned by the city, and the national planning board. [Working with these institutions] has become a challenge because it is not usually part of our job, but we have got to do it."

Legislative challenges have ultimately spilled over into difficulties with land acquisition in the south of Jakarta which, along with a reported error by a contractor, have pushed back the opening date from 2018. But Boestami says while all of these issues have not yet been resolved, the project is now on course for completion by the end of 2018, with commercial operations beginning in the first quarter of 2019.

He adds that the north-south corridor was chosen for the inaugural metro project from the results of studies into the economic needs of the city over the next 35 years, which concluded that it is the key business area of the city. Critically he says the line will integrate with other public transport modes, including the new railway to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport via links with the existing elevated commuter network, the new 42.1km light rail line (see panel), as well as water taxis and BRT lines.

"We will build a park-and-ride station in Lebak Bulus so people will be able to stop there and take the MRT into the city," Boestami. "They will also have the option to take buses from where they live to the station and there are plans to build a light rail system in that town."

Second phase

Beyond the current project, work is now underway on detailed studies for the second phase, an 8km northern underground extension of the line from Bundaran Hotel Indonesia to Kampung Bandan, which is estimated to cost a further $US 1.5bn. Boestami says the goal is to complete the study in 2017 and then for construction to start by the end of the year. "This is what we are hoping for and we are aiming to complete the line by 2020," he says.

Plans are also afoot for the ambitious project to build an 87km east-west line linking Cikarang with Balaraja. Again Boestami says a study is currently underway at the central government level and he says the aim is to start construction on the 27km first phase by 2020, with the aim of opening this line by 2025.

He says that funding is in place for both studies, with Jica financing the East-West study, while the government is exploring the possibility of a public-private partnership (PPP) for the project. However, Boestami doesn't believe securing further financing "will be a problem for us," given the government's recognition, albeit late, of the desperate need to provide public transport infrastructure and services to its citizens.

"Under the constitution it is the responsibility of the government to provide Indonesia and its people with public services," Boestami says.

"It's not about getting the money, the money is there. It is a matter of planning and implementation. For example, the city's budget is about $US 6.5bn in 2016 and the first phase's cost is only $US 300m for five years, so $US 1.5bn. So either you have a potential economic growth of $US 6.5bn, or you spend the next five years continuing with the same problems with traffic. The choice is easy."

As Indonesia's first metro system, recruiting staff to operate the line is a major priority for MRT Jakarta as the opening draws closer. Boestami estimates that the project will require around 500 employees in the first phase and he says the process has already begun to identify and train staff to use what is new technology for the country.

There is also the added complication of Indonesia's various other railway and transit projects and the demand each of these will have on a limited current pool of experienced and skilled technicians. As a result, Boestami says that while MRT Jakarta is benefitting from two government-run training institutes, it is also looking to attract partners from the wider industry to support its training and recruitment efforts.

"We are looking to partner with other operators around the world who have experience of using and operating the same CBTC system," Boestami says. "We will also issue a tender for operations during the first five to seven years. However, this scheme will be more like a shared operation so we can gain experience."

Investment in rail infrastructure in Jakarta and Indonesia as a whole will serve to boost the domestic railway industry, and develop the sector, which while dating back to the Dutch colonial period, Boestami admits remains in its infancy. Certainly for domestic companies like rolling stock manufacturer PT Inka and signalling supplier PT Len, the projects are proving a major boost. But ultimately it is the public that will benefit from new public transport infrastructure.

However, a single line which has capacity for only 173,000 passengers per day will not solve all of Jakarta's transport issues. It is then essential that the city follows through with its planned projects to build new infrastructure that will deliver public transport to under-served areas where residents currently have little choice but to use private transport. Further delays, and project cancellations, will only intensify its current problems, and prevent the city from ditching its unwanted label as the world's most congested any time soon.


Jakarta light rail momentum builds

A groundbreaking ceremony for Jakarta's latest light rail project was set to be held on June 22. The 6km first phase of the 1067mm-gauge line from Kelapa Gading to Rawamangun Velodrome is scheduled for completion in December 2017 and is set to open in March or April 2018. It will serve many of the venues for the 2018 Asian Games, which Jakarta is co-hosting with the south Sumatran city of Palembang in August 2018.

State-owned developer Adhi Karya is set to lead the development of the line after it was appointed by Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to work with PT Jakarta Propertindo, which is managing the project, following revisions to legal protection regulations.

The start of work on the new line follows the groundbreaking in September 2015 on the city's first light rail line, the 42.1km elevated link with 18 stations from Cibubur in east Jakarta to Dukuh Atas in the city centre via Cawang. The project initially comprises the 13.7km Cibubr - Cawang section, which is expected to cost Rupiah 11.9 trillion and will open in the first half of 2018 to coincide with the Asian Games.

Two subsequent phases are planned: the 10.5km Cawang - Dukuh Atas link which is phase 1A, and the 17.9km Bekasi Timur - Cawang section which is phase 1B, where work was scheduled to start by the end of this year. Adhi Karya is again leading implementation of the project which is budgeted at Rupiah 23.8 trillion. The government will provide 70% of this with private operators set to contribute 30% under the terms of the tender.

As part of the 2015 Indonesian Presidential Regulation No. 98, which outlined future transport priorities, subsequent extension of the line are planned east from Cawang to Bekasi Timur adding four stations, south from Cibubur to Bogor Baranangsiang adding another four stations, and west from Dukuh Atas to Senayan, including an interchange at Palmerah where the line will head north to Grogol. In the long-term this extension will also connect with Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Ultimately the plan envisages initial construction of 83km of lines on nine corridors, with possible expansion to 123.7km. These routes will ultimately link up with a further 142km of light
rail planned by other administrations in west Java, including in Karawang, Walini and Tegalluar.

Jakarta is focusing on light rail aftera much-maligned project to construct a 39km monorail network in the city centre was cancelled for a second time in 2015. The Cilubur - Dukuh Atas project will use part of the elevated construction piles built for the abandoned project.

Airport link set to open in 2017

THE long-awaited project to connect Jakarta's main airport, Soekarno-Hatta International, with the city centre is set for completion in 2017. The
$US 155m rail link project involves constructing a 12km double-track branch, which will diverge from the Jakarta - Tangerang commuter line near Batu Ceper station before turning north towards the airport. Services will link the airport with Tanah Abang in central Jakarta and Manggarai in the south of the city, with a one-way fare of Rs 100,000 ($US 7.57).

The new line will be served by a fleet of 10 six-car EMUs supplied by a consortium of PT Inka and Bombardier and is expected to carry 57,600 passengers per day when it opens in 2017. However, another project to develop a new express line linking Soekarno-Hatta with either Manggarai or Gambir stations has been delayed while the project is revised after it was initially designed to connect with Halim Perdanakusuma Airport. The government has allocated Rupiah 24 trillion to the new line, which will be implemented as a PPP, with a tender expected this year.