The Jakarta Post
After decades of delay, construction has finally begun on the landmark rail-based mass rapid transit (MRT) system, in Jakarta, a megaproject designed to help the capital catch up with those of neighboring countries in modern urban transportation.
Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo launched the project in a groundbreaking ceremony at Dukuh Atas, Central Jakarta on Thursday, only a few days before he marked the first anniversary of taking office.
'After 24 years of dreaming about having an MRT, finally Jakarta residents' dream will come true. In the name of God, the construction of the first MRT track has begun,' Jokowi said in the ceremony.
Neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines have long since developed MRT systems to cope with traffic congestion in their respective capital cities.
PT MRT Jakarta president director Dono Boestami, who assumed the job in March, acknowledged that the project has been delayed for years.
Studies on public transportation in Jakarta, which became the embryo of the MRT project, were first conducted in 1986 while PT MRT Jakarta was not established until 2008.
'We have done everything to speed up the project's realization, including intensified discussions among related stakeholders. Right now, all the contractors that will carry out the underground work are ready,' Dono said.
According to Dono, the contractors will start by installing slope protection to build retaining walls.
'The walls will prevent the ground above the work from subsiding. This phase is crucial,' he said, adding that the contractors would not begin drilling activities before 2015.
'The TBM or tunnel boring machine will operate in 2015,' he said.
The underground MRT stations will be built at a depth of between 8 and 10 meters, except for Dukuh Atas station, which will be built 24 meters below the ground due to the presence of the West
PT MRT Jakarta technical director Muhammad Nasir said that the MRT system would be integrated with the existing railway system.
'The gauge of the [MRT] tracks will be the same as that of the existing railway system, which is 1,067 millimeters. We will also use the same electricity system to power the trains,' Nasir said.
Dono warned that the project construction would inevitably cause traffic congestion near the construction sites. 'We apologize for the inconvenience,' he said.
Jakarta Transportation Agency head Udar Pristono said that his agency had coordinated with the Jakarta traffic police to minimize the impact of the work.
'We will endeavor to maintain the road widths. Loading and unloading activities will be conducted from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. when the roads are relatively empty,' he said.
The agency would also install road signs to direct motorists.
'Don't worry, all the work will not be carried out simultaneously,' Udar said.
The city believes that the gain will be worth the pain.
City Council speaker Ferrial Sofyan said that one MRT train, which will consist of six cars, would be able to transport a maximum of 1,200 passengers per trip. PT MRT Jakarta plans to operate 16 trains.
'The figures are equal to 200 APV cars or 30 single Transjakarta buses,' he said.
However, University of Indonesia public policy expert Andrinof Chaniago warned that the benefits would be reduced if the city did not draw up supporting policies.
'With the addition of an MRT system, the combined modes of public transportation in Jakarta will still only transport 1.5 million passengers a day while there are around 7 million people moving around the capital on a daily basis.
'Besides the planned traffic policies like electronic road pricing, the city administration should also come up with supporting policies, such as building affordable apartments downtown to shorten residents' commuting journeys. In a big city, 80 percent of the residents should live in vertical housing downtown,' Andrinof said.
He added that the next task would be weaning residents from their dependency on private vehicles.
'The city's next job is to change people's behavior through both educative and repressive measures,'
The first MRT track ' which will connect Lebak Bulus, South Jakarta, and the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle ' will have six underground stations, seven elevated stations with a capacity of 173,000 passengers per day.
The construction of the first phase of the MRT track will be funded by a Â¥125 billion (US$1.29 billion) soft loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and another Â¥15 billion from the city budget.
The road to MRT
'¢ 1989-1992: Jakarta mass rapid transit (MRT) study begins
'¢ Dec. 1994: MRT project announced with a US$1.5 billion price tag
'¢ 1997: Project postponed due to the financial crisis
'¢ 1999: Study on revised basic design begins
'¢ 2000: Study on Transportation Master Plan for Greater Jakarta, Phase I, begins, funded by JICA
'¢ 2002: Phase II study begins
'¢ June 17, 2008: PT MRT Jakarta established
'¢ Dec. 5, 2008: JICA, Jakarta administration ink deal on study for Dukuh Atas - Kota - Kampung Bandan extension
'¢ Oct. 22, 2011: JICA agrees to provide Rp 9 trillion in loans for first stage
'¢ Sept. 28, 2012: Two consortia bid for contracts to build underground sections
'¢ May 2, 2013: Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo officially launches the long overdue MRT project at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta. A consortium of Shimizu-Obayashi-Wijaya Karya-Jaya Konstruksi will carry out two underground construction projects and Sumitomo Mitsui Construction Company-Hutama Karya another.
'¢ June 11, 2013: PT MRT Jakarta signs contract with project winners
'¢ Aug. 31, 2013: Exploratory tests for the MRT megaproject begin on Jl. Sudirman in Central Jakarta