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Putting Jakarta on the right track: how Japanese tech is transforming a megacity

By Damon Embling
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Putting Jakarta on the right track: how Japanese tech is transforming a megacity
Copyright  euronews

Jakarta has long been one of the world's top three most congested cities. Now, thanks to Japanese technology and expertise, there is a another way to get around this megacity of 30 million people. 

"I always arrive at the office on time"

Jakarta native Muhammad Iqbal no longer dreads the daily commute to work. He has ditched his motorbike and the city’s roads and now takes the Mass Rapid Transit system, or MRT, instead.

“The MRT really helps me in shortening my travel time so that I always arrive at the office on time. Besides that, I also have a new habit with my family. Now, every weekend, I take my wife and children for an outing to the city forest located in the centre of Jakarta, using the MRT,” Muhammad says. 

The first line opened in 2019 and stretches almost 16 kilometre linking southern Jakarta to the centre.

A two-hour journey by car now takes eighteen minutes by train. The line has been praised by commuters for its punctuality and for reducing stress. It was made possible thanks to an 'All Japan' approach. The light, energy-efficient trains, technology and expertise came from Japan, along with loans.

Honzu Shigeo, a senior representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Indonesia, told Euronews: “In Jakarta, as the population increased, so did the number of vehicles. This caused traffic jams and air pollution. To address this situation, the Indonesian government decided to use Japanese technology and know-how to develop a public transport system for Jakarta.”

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Construction is already underway on the second phase of the MRTEuronews

Changing travel habits

Millions of passengers are already using the metro every year - even during the pandemic. Travel habits are changing, with more people also now walking and cycling. According to analysis by the University of Indonesia, emissions have already been cut by 18 percent. 

“Our approach is that we want to build a stronger trust from commuters in using public transportations, by ensuring and providing a safe journey," says Silvia Halim, Director of Construction for MRT Jakarta:

“And, of course, how we can promote public transportations as the choice of lifestyle,” she adds. 

And it’s not the end of the line. Construction is already underway on the second phase of the MRT, also supported by Japan. It will add almost 12 more kilometres.

“When this is completed, it will be connecting the most southern part of Jakarta with the northern part of Jakarta,” Halim says. 

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Japanese transport expertise runs right through the MRTEuronews

Sharing vital expertise

Daisuke Nanjo - a project manager from Japanese engineering consulting company, Oriental Consultants Global, is part of the team making the MRT happen.

“We need to construct vertical tunnels and a four-layer underground station near the canal. And working with such conditions is very difficult. Also, ruins have been discovered around the station, so we imagine that it will be very difficult work. But our mission is to finish the construction work on time.”

Unique transport expertise from Japan runs right through the MRT. That knowledge is helping to guide the line's operation and maintenance and train staff, like train drivers and station teams.

“We have seen the transfer of knowledge of the metro and railway system, be it in the aspect of the planning, the development, the engineering and the constructions. Through the engagements and cooperation with the contractors, the consultants and the operators from Japan, we are able to also build new standards,” says Halim. 

For train staff like Amelia, the MRT is a source of pride. She says: “It is a pleasant experience for me, as a member of MRT staff, serving the surrounding community with MRT."