Vehicles trapped in gridlock in Jakarta on Feb. 9, 2015. (Antara Photo/Rosa Panggabean)

Jokowi Talks Up National Public Transport Drive in China


MARCH 26, 2015

Beijing. President Joko Widodo sought to emphasise that he meant business on infrastructure on Thursday by telling an audience in China that major public transport projects would begin in several Indonesian cities as early as this year.

During his state visit to China, Joko said light transport systems, such as trams and monorails, would soon begin in Bandung, Surabaya and Makassar in addition to the ongoing construction of Jakarta's mass-rapid transit system.

Joko said Indonesia would also soon start work on a light rail connecting Jakarta with Bogor, Tangerang and Bekasi — three satellite cities in the sprawling greater metropolitan area.

"Major cities like Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Medan and Makassar should start thinking about an MRT and LRT," Joko said.

Joko said he had been impressed with the development of the train-based transport in China.

As well he might. While China has laid thousands of kilometers of track in a matter of years and outspent Indonesia on infrastructure as a percentage of GDP, Indonesia was spending billions of dollars every year subsidizing gasoline for private motor vehicles.

Bangkok completed its MRT in 2004, which now carries more than 80 million passengers a year, but a series of inept policies in Indonesia's capital have condemned millions of commuters to congested journeys to get to work that can take hours.

The Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Transport have received major budget increases this year as Joko looks to ramp up infrastructure spending in the second half of the year.

Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismarahaini has already presented plans for a monorail in the city, but details remain thin on the ground about when construction will start.

"It has to start this year and we have made our decision," Joko said.