The Jakarta Post
The Transportation Ministry Directorate General of Railways has begun work on a double-track railway in North Sumatra connecting Medan, Aras Kabu and Kuala Namu International Airport in Deli Serdang, with a total budget of Rp 3.9 trillion (US$338 million).
The project commenced on Thursday with a plaque signing and groundbreaking ceremony led by director general of railways Hermanto Dwi Atmoko at the Aras Kabu railway station in Beringin district, Deli Serdang.
Hermanto said the double-track airport railway would be built in stages and ready for use in 2017. The initial stage of the project, he said, would cost Rp 150 billion and be completed this year.
'The second stage will begin in 2015 and wrap up in 2017,' Hermanto said after the ceremony.
He went on to say that the double-track railway would stretch 26 kilometers, and that the total project budget of Rp 3.9 trillion would come out of the Transportation Ministry's state budget allocation.
According to Hermanto, some stretches of the railway would be elevated to prevent traffic jams in Medan.
'If the elevated tracks are completed, the 12 existing railway crossings in Medan will be phased out so as to minimize traffic congestion in the city.'
He added that the new railway would also shorten travel times from downtown Medan to the Kuala Namu airport, saying the new double track, able to handle continuous two-way traffic, would shave at least 10 minutes off of what was now a 30-minute-long train journey.
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Hermanto also called on the provincial administration to support the project so it could be completed on schedule.
Recently, the North Sumatra division of state railway firm PT KAI reported that 2,564 families were still living along the planned route of the railway track.
Deli Serdang deputy regent Zainuddin Mars, who attended the groundbreaking, said he would support the Transportation Ministry so as to guarantee the timely completion of the railway.
According to Zainuddin, his office was compelled to provide assistance for the project because residents were looking forward to the positive impact it would have on reducing congestion in the area.
The recently opened Kuala Namu airport, which took six years to build, has the country's most sophisticated passenger terminal. It is expected that the airport will become the country's main gateway for visitors traveling from China, Europe and the Middle East.
The state-owned airport operator Angkasa Pura (AP) II invested Rp 2.2 trillion to construct landside facilities, while the central government disbursed Rp 3.39 trillion to construct the airside area.
Kuala Namu airport can accommodate 8 million people a year. However, the number of passengers reached around 8.3 million only a few months after it began operating in mid-2013.