Sat, Apr 18, 2015 - Page 15 News List

Delayed railway projects amplify Jakarta gridlock

Reuters, JAKARTA

Road users progress slowly along a main street in central Jakarta on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

Millions of Jakarta commuters are set to to struggle through the world’s most congested traffic for almost another decade, authorities believe, and they might have to wait even longer if US$4 billion worth of new railway projects do not work out as planned.

Jakarta came first among 78 cities for traffic stops and starts in a study published this year by motor oil firm Castrol, with the average driver having to stop 33,240 times per year — more than twice the number in New York.

New York drivers also travel twice as fast as those in Jakarta, whose average speed is a mere 8.3km per hour.

Making matters worse, at least a thousand new cars and motorbikes are added to Jakarta’s roads each day, government figures show.

There are hopes that a mass rapid transit (MRT) system, under construction and slated to open in 2018, would provide relief. However, PT MRT Jakarta president director Dono Boestami said its impact would be limited initially.

It would take a long checklist of initiatives, including the government’s new plan to build a light rail train (LRT), to see any real change, he said.

If all goes to plan, traffic could be reduced by 30 percent, but not until 2024 at the earliest, Boestami said, adding that a second MRT line and inner city toll roads would also be needed.

Work on the MRT began in 2013 after decades of delays, and the Indonesian central government and Jakarta City Government say they are urgently seeking more solutions to the traffic gridlock.

“Based on instructions from the president, all plans to develop public transportation in greater Jakarta must be conducted this year and this cannot be delayed,” Indonesian Minister of Transportation Ignasius Jonan told reporters this month after a meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

A consortium of Indonesian and Japanese companies, including Obayashi Corporation, Shimizu Corporation and Sumitomo Mitsui Construction Co Ltd, is building Jakarta’s MRT, which is expected to cost US$3 billion.

The LRT, which is expected to stretch 30km and cost about US$720 million, is to be built by a group of about seven state-owned firms, including construction companies Adhi Karya and Wijaya Karya.

“If the government can provide a convenient, safe and good public transportation system, I will use it for sure,” said Thomas Madya Bestari, who spends more than two hours per day getting to and from his marketing job at Samsung on a motorbike.

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