FUELLED by unprecedented levels of disposable income, Indonesia's growing middle class is currently registering around 1000 new cars every day. But rather than provide the freedom of movement their owners desire, this is only adding to the city's already-saturated road network, making the need to deliver improved public transport ever more pertinent.

Various projects are now underway to tackle this problem with the jewel in the crown undoubtedly the Jakarta MRT project which "after 24 years of daydreaming" is finally moving ahead.

Work on the 15.2km north-south Line 1, which will connect Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in central Jakarta with Lebak Bulus in the south of the city, is now well underway following a ground breaking ceremony on October 10 2013.

The line's 9.2km underground section will have six stations while the remaining 6km will be elevated with seven stations. Line 1 is expected to accommodate 173,000 passengers per day when it opens in the first quarter of 2018 with services operating at five-minute headways.

Work for the project is divided into seven civil works contracts which were awarded by city-owned PT Jakarta MRT. Construction of the first phase of the MRT project is funded by a Yen 125bn ($US 1.19bn) 40-year soft loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The city government is providing the remaining $US 143m and is responsible for paying off 51% of the loan. The national government will pay the remaining 49% share.

Jakarta's MRT ambitions are not limited to this project. Indonesia's chief economic minister Mr Hatta Rajasa says that, with Japan's support, work will accelerate in 2014 to extend the MRT project beyond its existing northern terminus by 2020.

"Our goal is for the MRT network to be completed up to the Old Town area, Balaraja and Manggarai, instead of only reaching the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle," he said following a meeting with Japan's transport and tourism minister Mr Akihiro Ohta in Jakarta on December 27.

In addition the city also hopes to develop, in cooperation with neighbouring municipalities, a 90km east-west metro line from Cikarang in Bekasi to Balaraja in Tangerang. Planning for this project is currently under way, but it is not expected to be implemented until at least 2024.

Another project that is moving ahead following numerous delays is the Jakarta monorail project.

Construction recommenced on the project, which consists of the Green and Blue lines, in November following a six-year hiatus due to funding issues. The monorail got a new lease of life after an agreement was reached between PT Jakarta Monorail (JM) and China Communication Construction that would enable the Chinese firm to provide financing worth $US 1.5bn for the project which would cover construction of the lines and a monorail manufacturing plant in Indonesia.

JM, which will operate the service, is now 90% held by Singapore-based Ortus Holdings, which is owned by Indonesian businessman Mr Edward Soeryadjaya, with the remaining 10% held by privately-owned PT Indonesia Transit Central.

Jakarta-LXRows of pillars were left to rot in the Central Jakarta business districts of Senayan and Kuningen when work stopped on the Green Line in 2007. This 14.3km circular line with 16 stations is now scheduled to be completed in 2016. It will interchange at Karat and Casablanca with the 13.7km Blue Line which will have 14 stations and will run east-west from Kampung Melayu to Grogol.

JM plans to operate 10 six-car trains with capacity for 1200 passengers/hour/ direction on the two lines, with both services expected to carry a total of 300,000 passengers per day, rising to 600,000 by 2025.

JM has signed up several international companies to support its work on the project, including Singapore Technologies Electronics; the international subsidiary of Singapore metro operator SMRT; PT Indosat, Indonesia; CNR Changchun Railway Vehicles; and TÜV Rhineland Group. It also signed an agreement with Bangkok Mass Transit Syestem (BTS), Thailand, to provide support on development and operation for the monorail network. And depending on project feasibility, investment yield, and final terms and conditions, this could lead to BTS providing operations and maintenance services for the network, and investing in its equity.

Airport rail links

Private involvement is also sought for Jakarta's proposed airport rail links, which are being led by PT Railink, a joint venture of national railway operator PT Kereta Api (40%) and national airport administrator PT Angkas Pura II. Two projects are proposed, including building a new 33km standard-gauge elevated Express Line project between Jakarta Halim, which began operating commercial flights in January, and Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (SHIA), which is worth $US 1.79bn, and a 7km extension from the existing commuter network at Batu Ceper to SHIA, which is projected to enter service in 2015.

"According to a survey only 18% of the passengers for Soekarno-Hatta are coming from Western Java," says Mr Hanggoro Wiryawan, the Indonesian Railway Directorate's director of railway traffic. "The toll road is also quite dense with traffic, so passengers trying to go to the airport do not have any options. The station is beside the toll road which is 1km from Halim Airport which will be reachable by a shuttle bus."

Wiryawan says he expects a tender for construction of the line to be launched in April with prequalification expected to be finalised in January. He says that several international consortia have already expressed an interest in the project and a prefeasibility study conducted by state-owned infrastructure financing company PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur, which will also lead the project tender, was concluded in December.

The study proposes the construction of stations at Halim Perdanakusuma and Cawang in East Jakarta, Manggarai in South Jakarta, Dukuh Atas, Tanah Abang and Surdiman in Central Jakarta, and Pluit in North Jakarta which will be designed to interchange with existing commuter services. The sections from Halim - MT Haryono and Sheraton - SHIA will be underground, with the central Cawang - Sheraton section elevated. The train will operate at a maximum of 150km/h and offer a journey time of around 30 minutes. It is expected to serve up to 40,000 passengers per day and ticket prices are expected to be lower than the average cost of a taxi to encourage passengers to use the service.

Wiryawan says Sudirman station is expected to become the central hub for Jakarta's new rapid transit networks and the proposed high-speed lines as they are developed over the next few years, and deputy transport minister Mr Bambang Susantono says all of the transit projects are being designed to interchange with one another across the city.

"I think the key word of these developments is integration," Susantono says. "Whether this is physical integration in the stations by providing convenient transfer facilities, or through integrated ticketing systems so there is one ticket for all services. Thirdly there should be integration of the schedule, so that you know when you leave one mode of transport, three minutes later you can hop onto another."

Commuter services

Existing commuter services are not being spared investment. A programme to extend electrification is planned for Jakarta which will enable its current emu fleet to be increased from 600 units at present to 1300, while signalling systems will be upgraded and level crossings eliminated where possible.

A new $US 826.5m circle line is also proposed which will connect stations at Jatinegara in east Jakarta, Manggari in the south, Tanah Abang in the city centre, Duri and Kota in the west of the city and Kampung Bandan in the north. However, this project has been delayed in favour of the commuter link to the airport which will be operated by PT Railink and be served by a new fleet of 48 emu cars on order from a consortium of PT Inka, Indonesia, and Bombardier. PT Railink says six trains of eight coaches will operate at 30-minute frequencies, offering a journey time of 55 minutes from the city centre to the airport.

The commuter rolling stock fleet is also being enhanced through the continuing delivery of additional used dmus and coaches from Japan. A five-year programme is underway to procure 800 new commuter cars which will increase ridership from 600,000 passengers in 2013, following an increase from 500,000 in 2012, to 1.2 million in 2018.

Other cities

Outside the capital, regional and city governments are also exploring options to build new rapid transit systems. This includes Bandung where local company PT Len Railways Systems is advising the regional government on the desired mode of transport. A monorail appears to be the preferred option, but light rail and metro is also under consideration.

Upgrades of the 42km east-west cross-city corridor from Cicalengka to Padalarang, which carries commuter as well as inter-city trains from Jakarta to Surabaya via the southern trans-Java main line is also proposed under a $US 175m project, which is largely funded by a $US 157m French overseas development loan. Electrification, introduction of electronic interlockings and track-doubling is planned on the 24km section from Padalareng to Gedebage, while preparatory works are taking place to elevate a 4km section through the city centre. Track-doubling has already taken place on the 5km section from Kiaracondong to Gedebage and Indonesia's Railway Directorate hopes to complete the work by the end of 2016.

One city that is progressing with plans to develop a monorail and light rail network is Surabaya. Surabaya mayor Mr Tri Rismaharini confirmed in December that up to 60 prospective investors had expressed an interest in the city's project which is worth $US 704m, with the state set to cover 40% of the project's costs.

A 20km east-west monorail is proposed along with a 16km north-south light rail line. A pre-qualification tender for the project is expected later this year with prospective investors expected to have sufficient funds to cover the expected cost of the project and guarantees during the construction phase.

A 30km monorail is also proposed for Makassar, the largest city on the island of Sulawesi. However, Makassar mayor Mr Ilham Arief Sirajuddin cast doubt over the project in November when he said he did not see an economic return on the scheme for prospective investors. He said that he would leave it to his successor as mayor to decide whether to proceed, with elections scheduled for April. Indonesia's Kalla Group had expressed an interest in building the monorail projects in Makassar, Bandung and Surabaya.

On Sumatra a new 42km airport service to Medan from the new Kuala Namu International Airport (KNIA), which opened in north Sumatra on July 25 2013, is already up and running. PT Railink operates six five-car trains with each accommodating up to 308 passengers on the revamped line, with journey times ranging from 37-47 minutes. PT Railink confirmed in September that it would purchase an additional four trains from Woojin Industrial System, Korea, to add to the two in use at the start of the service, increasing the frequency from 10 to 18 return journeys per day. A project to track-double the line is also proposed as part of the Trans Sumatra railway development plan.