Credit by ANTARA FOTO/Hafidz Mubarak | Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (right) and Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan celebrate during the Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) launch
Southeast Asia's Biggest Economy Opens Its First Subway
TRAVEL AND TOURISM Indonesia

Southeast Asia's Biggest Economy Opens Its First Subway

ndonesia’s long-awaited first subway opened Sunday in the country’s capital with the aim of relieving crippling traffic gridlock in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Minutes after inaugurating the 16-kilometer (10-mile) transit line running south from Jakarta’s downtown, President Joko Widodo presided over a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of the second phase: an 8-kilometer (5-mile) northward line planned for completion by 2024. The two projects are being built at a cost of $2.6 billion.

“Today we will begin a new civilization by operating the first phase of mass rapid transit in Jakarta,” Widodo told several thousand guests and residents at the inauguration, as quoted by Associated Press.

Forming parts of the North-South line, the first phase begins with 13 stations. Image: Channel News Asia/Pichayada Promchertchoo.
Forming parts of the North-South line, the first phase begins with 13 stations. Image: Channel News Asia/Pichayada Promchertchoo.

The line that opened Sunday includes seven elevated and six underground stations built by two consortiums of local and Japanese companies. Passengers can ride for free until the end of the month, after which operator PT MRT Jakarta has said tickets will cost the equivalent of between 70 cents and $1.

Widodo, who is campaigning for re-election, told the crowd that he has instructed Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan to begin the next phase of construction of an east-west line covering a distance of 87 kilometers this year.

Jakarta’s first subway line, the latest of many infrastructure improvements across the world’s fourth most populous nation, is aimed at helping it catch up with other Southeast Asian capitals such as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok in public transport.

Joko Widodo at the Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Istora-Mandiri Station on March 24. Image: Rony Zakaria/Bloomberg
Joko Widodo at the Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Istora-Mandiri Station on March 24. Image: Rony Zakaria/Bloomberg

Jakarta is officially home to about 10 million people, but the population of the greater metropolitan area swells to 30 million.

The line opened Sunday runs from the southern neighborhood of Lebak Bulus to Jakarta’s downtown and is expected to take less than 30 minutes. According to Bloomberg, it is expected to move 170,000 passengers a day. The line is expected to carry a total of 433,000 passengers a day when  the second phase of the North-South line fully operational.

In addition to the subway project, a $2.4 billion elevated rail network linking Jakarta and its satellite cities is also taking shape, with the first stage expected to begin operating in April.

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