President Joko Widodo inaugurates Soekarno-Hatta Airport rail link on Tuesday (02/1). (Photo credit : Cabinet Secretary)

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – After conducting trials of a rail link connecting downtown Jakarta and Soekarno-Hatta International Airport for around one week, the railway was officially inaugurated by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, on Tuesday (2/01). Operation of the railway marked the beginning of a sorely-needed integrated transportation system for the Greater Jakarta area.

The airport rail link will be integrated with both Mass Rapid Transportation (MRT) and the Light Rapid Transit (LRT), both of which are currently being developed by the government. The aim is to offer an alternative for the 12 million people who reside in Jakarta, where traffic gridlock is common.

The inauguration ceremony of the airport rail link was also attended by the State-Owned Enterprise Minister Rini Soemarno, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya and Minister for State Secretary Pratikno.

President Joko Widodo said the operation of the airport railway is a “concrete result” of the government’s efforts in the past three years.

“Thanks God that after three years and hard working, the construction of the Soekarno-Hatta airport train is finally completed. This railway link should help reduce traffic jams,” President Widodo said.

The airport rail link stops at two stations – Duri and Batu Ceper – on its run between Jalan Sudirman, in the heart of Jakarta’s CBD, and Soekarno-Hatta Airport. The train is scheduled to make 42 trips per day, commencing at 03.51 a.m. from New Sudirman and running until 21.51, while the Soekarno-Hatta Airport train will start operations at 6.10 a.m., making its final run at 23.10 local time.

PT Railink will be running three train-sets, consisting of 6 cars and 272 seats. Therefore, the airport train should be able to transport up to 11,000 passengers per day.

In addition to the newly-operated Soekarno-Hatta – Sudirman rail link, the Transportation Ministry will also develop a rail link connecting the airport with Tangerang in Banten Province.

The airport rail link is a mass transportation system developed by the government to integrate transportation in the Greater Jakarta area, connecting the existing Trans Jakarta network with the railway, the MRT and LRT.

Meanwhile, planned High-Speed Train projects connecting Jakarta-Bandung and Jakarta-Surabaya, will link up smoothly with the inner-city Jakarta Transportation system.

The first, 15.7-km, phase along the north-south corridor of the MRT project is projected to begin operating in early 2019, drawing down an investment of US$1.7 billion. Construction was funded by a ¥125 billion (US$1.29 billion) soft loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The MRT project has been developed by the Jakarta city provincial government through land transportation company PT MRT Jakarta, which will also be the operator of the MRT. Construction for the first phase of the MRT tracks started in September 2015, involving state-owned constructing companies Wijaya Karya, Jaya Konstruksi and Hutama Karya, collaborating with Japanese companies Tokyu, Shimizu, Obayashi and Mitsui-Sumitomo. The route will feature six underground stations, seven elevated stations and a projected capacity of up to 173,000 passengers per day. It will take less than 30 minutes to travel from Lebak Bulus to Bunderan HI.

President Widodo hopes that the integrated transportation system will help ease wasteful inner-city traffic congestion, which is estimated to cost up to Rp67 trillion per year.

The Soekarno Hatta-Sudirman rail link is 37.6 kilometers in length and takes 55 minutes from end to end. The airport railway entailed construction costs of Rp3.6 trillion, and was developed by PT Railink, a joint venture company of state-run railway operator PT Kereta Api Indonesia and state-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II. PT Railink commenced operations of its first airport railway in Kuala Namu Airport, Medan, North Sumatra in July 2013.

Railink is also developing airport railways in other cities, including Padang, Palembang and Solo. construction in Padang and Palembang is set to begin in May and Solo in November.

Indonesia, the world’s biggest archipelago nation and Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, has been grappling with a lack of public transportation for years, while Jakarta has seen an explosion in traffic jams that are among the worst in the world.

This week’s inauguration comes about eight months before the capital hosts the 2018 Asian Games, which are expected to see about 9,500 athletes flock to the congestion-prone city.

Written by Elisa Valenta, email: elisa.valenta@theinsiderstories.com