Japan's MRT plan in limbo
Paper Edition | Page: 1
Only days after being sworn in as Jakarta governor, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has announced plans to reverse his predecessor’s critical decision to pursue a multi-billion dollar Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system bankrolled by the Japanese government.
The new governor has ordered a review of the ongoing construction of the capital’s first MRT line, saying its costs would overburden the city.
Jokowi’s deputy, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, said the governor had asked the Jakarta Transportation Agency and city-owned PT MRT Jakarta to enlighten him on details of the plan and to rationalize the need for the massive budget. “We are asking PT MRT Jakarta to explain [the project] to us because the governor thinks that the project might be overpriced,” Ahok told reporters at City Hall on Wednesday.
The deputy governor said there was a possibility the MRT project would be postponed.
“Pak Jokowi ordered me to investigate this plan, but he has the final word on this,” Ahok said.
PT MRT Jakarta is set to begin construction of the MRT’s first phase, a 15.5-kilometer-long route connecting Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta and the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta, before the end of the year. The cost of the MRT will mostly be covered by a ¥120 billion (US$1.5 billion) soft loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The total cost of the project is estimated to be ¥144 billion.
If the project goes as planned, Jakarta’s first MRT line will begin operating in 2016.
“We are not saying we are against the MRT project, but there are other options for mass transportation like the Bus Rapid Transit [BRT] and the electric commuter train. We want to be sure that such large funds are appropriate for the project,” Ahok said.
Separately, PT MRT Jakarta president director Tribudi Rahardjo said that postponement of the project would require approval from the central government.
“A delay would require approval from the Finance Ministry and the Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister, because the project was approved through a ministerial decree,” Tribudi said as quoted by kompas.com.
Tribudi said he expected the MRT project to continue as planned.
Plans for the MRT had been shelved for decades before Jokowi’s predecessor, Fauzi Bowo, claimed to have achieved the breakthroughs needed to begin construction.
Jokowi has also expressed intentions to revive the abandoned monorail project, which the Fauzi administration deemed “unfeasible”, with support from State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan. Fauzi called off the project in 2011, three years after its developer, PT Jakarta Monorail, halted construction due to legal and financial problems.
Earlier this year, Fauzi’s administration announced that it planned to repurpose the concrete columns left by the initial construction phase for part of an elevated bus rapid transit (BRT) project.
The Jakarta Development Planning Board (Bappeda) maintains that a monorail is less feasible as it requires a huge amount of investment and subsidies.
Ahok, however, said that the revived monorail plan would not involve large amounts of funding from the administration’s coffers. “Construction and operation of the monorail will be done by private companies. The city will only give the necessary permits,” Ahok said.
The deputy governor said he would meet with representatives from state-owned construction firm PT Adhi Karya, which announced in August that it wanted to revive the project, before the end of the week.
PT Adhi Karya president director Kiswodarmawan said the company planned to form a consortium to raise a total of Rp 60.55 trillion for the 60-kilometer-long monorail network. A total of Rp 12 trillion would be used to kick-start the abandoned route, which was planned to run 13 kilometers through Tanah Abang and the Sudirman Central Business District (SCBD).
Kismodarmawan said the planned monorail routes could replace the existing 121-kilometer-long BRT network and could be built within two to three years.
Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.