First Indonesia underground rail opens

JAKARTA • Indonesia rolled its first train through a new underground rail network in the capital city of Jakarta yesterday, another step in its struggles to overcome traffic gridlock in one of the busiest cities in South-East Asia.

President Joko Widodo, who got the project off the ground in 2013, inaugurated the project, making the 34-year-old dream come true.

The seventh president in South-East Asia’s largest economy instructed an integrated transportation system be built by developing a metro and light rail metro network to compliment an existing bus and commuter rail system. His aim was to ease congestion that costs US$5 billion (RM20.3 billion) of economic losses annually.

“The mass rapid transit  (MRT) phase one, I declare as officially operating today, also the MRT phase two, which starts today,” said Widodo, known as Jokowi, in video footage posted by the Cabinet Secretariat on its Facebook account yesterday. The metro is part of the North-South line.

First mooted by former dictator President General Suharto in early 1985, the metro was built with a ¥125 billion (RM4.47 billion) loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

It connects 13 stations along 16km from the heart of the city to the business district in the south. It is expected to move 170,000 passengers a day.

The government last year signed a ¥70 billion loan for the second phase of the North-South line. The line is expected to carry a total of 433,000 passengers a day when fully operational, while an East-West line will move more than a million commuters. Construction on that line will start this year. — Bloomberg