Jakarta launches city’s first MRT line

Enthusiastic commuters flocked to railway stations in Jakarta on Tuesday to be the first to ride the Indonesian capital’s shiny new trains, as the country launches a public trial of its first metro system.

Officials hope that the so-called mass rapid transit system, or MRT, will reduce traffic congestion, which is infamously bad in the city of around 10 million people.

“It’s very comfortable. I feel like I’m in Singapore,” said 35-year-old Akbar Mapaleo, who brought his wife and two young children.

Construction on the 16-kilometre line, funded by Japan, began in 2013 and cost 16 trillion rupiah (1.1 billion dollars).

It consists of six underground and seven elevated stations.   

Until this year, Jakarta was one of the world’s few megacities without a metro line.      

“Today, we start a new culture of commuting,” Jakarta MRT chief executive William Sabandar said.

“The MRT alone won’t solve the problem of traffic jams, but with integration with other modes of transport, such as the rapid bus system, hopefully congestion can be reduced,” he said. 

Construction will begin this year on a second line, extending 8.6 kilometres to the city’s north, officials said.  

President Joko Widodo said this month that traffic jams in the greater Jakarta area cost 4.5 billion dollars a year.

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