Thu, 28 Aug 2003

Sutiyoso to pursue US$400m monorail project

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Ignoring his critics, Governor Sutiyoso will visit Malaysia on Thursday to sign an agreement to build a monorail here, taking another step toward realizing his dream to make a mark in the capital's public transportation system.

Sutiyoso will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Malaysian firm M. Trans Holding for the US$400 million project.

"The signing of the MoU is the last hurdle before we can begin its construction," he told reporters on Wednesday at City Hall.

He said the MoU signing ceremony would be held in Kuching, Serawak, and would be witnessed by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and President Megawati Soekarnoputri, who is on a state visit to the neighboring country.

He said M. Trans Holding had agreed to pay the so-called "guarantee fund" to the city administration as an indication of its commitment to the project.

The MoU was to have been signed early this month, but was delayed because the investor had not agreed to pay the guarantee fund.

City Hall spokesman Muhayat said the agreed-upon guarantee fund was US$ 1 million less than the amount demanded by the city administration earlier, at 4 percent of the project's total investment value.

Urban development observers earlier criticized the project for its lack of transparency, since it was initiated by an offer from M. Trans Holding and without an open tender.

They also questioned whether a monorail would solve the city's chronic traffic problems, due to the absence of an integrated transportation system.

Initially, the monorail was to link Bekasi in the east with Tangerang in the west -- a distance of about 22.5 kilometers -- via various major arteries, including Jl. Casablanca, which is known for its traffic jams.

M. Trans Holding is to cooperate with local firm Indonesia Transit Central (ITC), a consortium comprised of PT Adhi Karya, Global Profex Synergy and Radiant Utama, in the monorail's construction.

The monorail cars are to be modeled after those in Malaysia, which use U.S.-based technology, and will be able to travel at up to 80 km per hour.

ITC chief executive officer Ruslan Diwirjo told The Jakarta Post recently that with a ticket price of Rp 12,000, they could break even in 12 years.

He also said he wanted hiss company to operate the monorail, which applied the Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) scheme, for 40 years before it was handed over to the city.

Sutiyoso previously expressed his wish that construction of the monorail could begin in December, when the administration was also scheduled to launch the bus rapid transit (BRT), or busway, connecting Blok M, South Jakarta, and Kota, Central Jakarta.

It will take at least 2.5 years to finish construction of the monorail.

Sutiyoso said the project was part of the Greater Jakarta Transportation Plan that had been designed by a team from the University of Indonesia (UI).

The UI blueprint for the future of city transportation includes the monorail (light rapid transit, or LRT), BRT an MRT subway system and water transportation.

Plans to develop an MRT system have constantly cropped up over the past few years, but were abandoned, mainly because of financial difficulties resulting from the prolonged economic crisis.