Tue, 04 Feb 2003

Busway again postponed, Sutiyoso to go to Colombia

Ahmad Junaidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Due to a lack of preparation, the city administration decided on Monday to postpone launching the controversial busway project at least until the end of this year.

"We will not force a launch this year, but when and if all the preparatory steps have been completed," governor Sutiyoso told reporters at City Hall.

He said the Rp 83 billion (US$9.2 million) already allocated towards the busway in the 2003 city budget would be retained if the project was not launched this year.

To conduct further preparation, Sutiyoso revealed that he and city officials planned to visit Bogota, Columbia, next month to conduct a study of a similar busway system.

"Bogota has been applying the busway system and it runs well. The Bogota mayor has invited us (for the comparative study)," Sutiyoso said.

The project, which will run along the right-hand side of Jl. M.H. Thamrin and Jl. Sudirman in Central Jakarta, was scheduled to be launched in September 2002. It has been delayed twice already due to lack of preparation.

The city administration then announced its plan to launch the trial run by the end of this month, claiming that two types of buses -- the German-made Mercedes and Japan-made Hino -- were being prepared for the trial.

City Transportation Agency head Rustam Effendy said earlier this month that the Mercedes and Hino buses were being assembled in Magelang, Central Java, and Sukabumi in West Java respectively, and would arrive on Jan. 27.

But Rustam said Monday that the buses had been returned for reassembly, since the modified vehicles did not fulfill the order.

"The busway project may be launched by the end of this year, at the very least," Rustam told reporters.

Buses for the project, which had been planned since 2000 by transportation experts from Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University, should be modified as they would use the fast lane of the road. The buses are to have doors on the right to pick up and drop off passengers on the median strip.

Besides purchasing at least 50 buses, the administration needs to build more pedestrian overpasses and new bus shelters along the median.

Recently, the administration spent Rp 2.5 billion to paint red squares and routes along Thamrin and Sudirman and to install traffic signs for the project.

The project is believed to add to the city's traffic congestion, especially along the city's two thoroughfares, on which skyscrapers, government offices and hotels are located.

Besides worsened traffic, it is feared the project will damage the environment, since many large trees along the road may be cut down to provide room for the busway.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle faction at the city council said in its statement on Friday that the project should be well-organized to avoid more problems.

"The administration should consider studying the project further to avoid failure," the party's faction spokesman Maringan Pangaribuan said during the council's plenary session.