Indonesia to start MRT network expansion beyond Jakarta in Q3 2024

Commuters at Lebak Bulus MRT station in Jakarta. The expansion of Indonesia's MRT system will connect Jakarta to Banten and West Java. - ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

JAKARTA (The Straits Times/ANN): Indonesia is planning to start the expansion of its mass rapid transit (MRT) system in the third quarter of 2024 to connect Jakarta to the neighbouring provinces of Banten and West Java at an estimated cost of 165 trillion rupiah (S$13.8 billion), a top official said.

The new East-West line, spanning 84.1km from Banten’s Balaraja and West Java’s Cikarang industrial towns, will link up with the capital city’s MRT line and provide some relief to the traffic-congested roads.

Jakarta is home to more than 11 million people, with millions more workers pouring in from adjacent districts daily.

The clogged roads are estimated to cause 65 trillion rupiah in losses each year.

The MRT expansion project will add to the modernisation of Indonesia’s transportation in the last decade under President Joko Widodo, with the completion of South-east Asia’s first high-speed rail (HSR) line, along with new MRT and light rail transit (LRT) networks.

For the MRT’s expansion, the 165 trillion rupiah cost is subject to various factors such as the exchange rate, said MRT Jakarta corporate secretary Ahmad Pratomo.

“The development of the East-West line is expected to enhance the connectivity of the MRT as a backbone of transport in Jakarta and the surrounding areas,” he told The Straits Times.

No date has been given for when the East-West line will be completed.

Under Mr Widodo, who came into office in 2014, the first phase of the MRT network costing about 16 trillion rupiah and covering 16km began operations in March 2019. Works to expand the North-South line, as the existing network is called, are ongoing.

The LRT Jakarta line, connecting the city’s north and east and costing 5.8 trillion rupiah, opened for business in December 2019, and its expansion into the city’s south is under way.

Another LRT line linking Jakarta and satellite cities in West Java, built with a 32.6 trillion rupiah investment, began commercial operations in August 2023.

Commuters in an MRT train in Jakarta. The capital city is home to more than 11 million people, with millions more workers pouring in from adjacent districts daily. - ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMACommuters in an MRT train in Jakarta. The capital city is home to more than 11 million people, with millions more workers pouring in from adjacent districts daily. - ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMA

Meanwhile, the 112 trillion rupiah HSR started operations in October 2023, slashing travel time between Jakarta and Bandung, Indonesia’s fourth-largest city, to 40 minutes, from more than three hours by car.

President-elect Prabowo Subianto, who will be sworn into office on Oct 20, has pledged to continue the policies of Mr Widodo, known as the infrastructure builder who is pushing to complete a new 466 trillion rupiah capital city, Nusantara, in East Kalimantan.

The cost of building the entire East-West line will be more expensive than the first section of the North-South line due to factors such as inflation affecting the value of the new project, which may conclude in two decades, loan interest rates and new technology involved, said Mr Aditya Dwi Laksana, a rail expert from the Indonesia Transportation Society.

The development of the East-West line will bring multiplier effects to the three provinces of Jakarta, Banten and West Java, he said, adding that it will boost transport access for underserved residents and “develop new economic centres” or “revitalise existing economic centres”.

Just as importantly, the MRT has led to a “more civilised transport culture”, such as queueing up and using cashless payments, he said. “This can happen if there is a more humane and modern transport system.”

“I can’t wait to see the project realised,” said payroll officer Winda Hapsari, 34, who works in the Jakarta business district and lives in Bekasi city.

“It is more comfortable for me to take the MRT,” he added.

She takes an hour by bus to go to the office and uses a mix of rides to return home to avoid heavy evening traffic. This includes switching between the MRT, LRT and motorcycle-taxis for 1½ hours.

Construction of the new East-West line will be divided into two stages, with the first stage stretching 33.76km from western Jakarta to Bekasi regency in West Java province.

The existing MRT network, the North-South line, has 13 stations. Funding for the initial 24.5km line of the new East-West line, which will have 21 stations, has been secured from Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), said MRT Jakarta’s Mr Ahmad.

Jica will fund the construction of underground tracks as well as provide operational facilities and trains, while the ADB will back the development of elevated tracks, he added.

Mr Kakuda Kazuyuki, senior representative of Jica in Indonesia, told ST the loan agreement for the East-West line is being prepared.

The North-South line was also backed by Japan, with the trains running through major business centres in central and southern Jakarta.

The introduction of the rail lines in the last few years by the Widodo government has been greeted enthusiastically by residents of Jakarta and its surrounding satellite cities, though there were initial complaints over high prices for the HSR rides.

Compared with private vehicles, the MRT can cut travel times by half within the Jakarta districts that the network currently covers.

The annual MRT passenger load hit over 33 million in 2023, with 91,000 daily riders. This compares with an average of 50,000 daily riders in 2022.

“I really want to see Jakarta’s transport networks well connected so that it is easy for us to transfer wherever we want to go,” said Mr Jonathan Davin, 31, a public affairs and communications consultant who lives in Bekasi city. - The Straits Times/ANN

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