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Jakarta launches subway system

By ROBERT BLAIN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-28 08:55

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (center) taps a ticket on a fare gate inside the Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit Istora-Mandiri station during the inauguration of the rail system in Jakarta on Sunday. [RONY ZAKARIA/BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES]

Indonesia's first subway line has already eased the capital city's severe traffic jams.

The first phase of the Mass Rapid Transit system, running between south and central Jakarta, was officially inaugurated by President Joko Widodo on Sunday. "Today we will begin a new civilization" by operating the first phase of MRT transit in Jakarta, he told a cheering crowd.

The line now comprises 13 stations and covers 16 kilometers, at an initial cost of $1.2 billion.

"The MRT can save more than 50 percent of the average commuting time," Muhamad Kamaluddin, MRT Jakarta corporate secretary division head, declared. "At the moment, (during) rush hour it is estimated to take more than one hour to drive from the Bundaran Hotel Indonesia to Lebak Bulus. MRT Jakarta can guarantee less than 30 minutes travel time between the same distance of 16 km."

A free trial run ran from March 18-23. Local residents in the city of 10 million people voiced their pride and joy of their own MRT, The Jakarta Post reported.

But plans for the city-transforming infrastructure project do not stop there, with the rail to be gradually rolled out across Jakarta.

Widodo presided over a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of the second phase: An 8-km northward line planned for completion by 2024.

"Phase II will commence this year from Bundaran Hotel Indonesia to Kota (Jakarta Old Town in the city's north). There will be an East-West Corridor as well that spans 87 km," added Kamaluddin. "Last but not least will be the extension from Lebak Bulus to South Tangerang City, with a length of 37 km."

"The most obvious harm that gridlock does to a city is in lost working hours for commuters. Add to that, the additional cost of fuel for all those private vehicles being used for the journey to work, the cost of healthcare associated with air pollution, plus the loss of tourism and international business visitors," said Pete Read, director of strategic research and advisory firm Global Growth Markets.

"The direct cost of traffic jams for Greater Jakarta is estimated at about $1.5 billion a year. That's 0.5 percent of the region's GDP, so the cost is very significant," he said.

Traffic jams

Read added that aside from alleviating the cost of traffic jams, there will be other positive effects from MRT Jakarta-the sort of benefits that Bangkok has reaped over the past 20 years since that city's monorail and subway systems were opened.

The Jakarta MRT system will eventually make Jabodetabek-the greater Jakarta area-and Java more attractive to foreign investment, which in turn will boost international trade, Reed said.

"It will also improve the efficiency of businesses and public sector workers, and long term will contribute to job creation and wealth generation. Not least it will improve quality of life for millions, and allow them to have greater choice over how they use their valuable time," he added.

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