Dzulfiqar Fathur Rahman, Jakarta – State-owned toll road operator PT Jasa Marga saw signs of recovery in its operations and finance nearing the end of the year, following the loosening of pandemic curbs that boosted vehicle traffic, particularly in the trans-Java toll road network.
The easing of mobility restrictions in the capital and more relaxed pandemic policies in various regions on Java Island allowed traffic to pick up faster on the trans-Java toll road than on toll roads within the capital Jakarta, according to Jasa Marga financial director Donny Arsal.
Some of the trans-Java toll road sections the company operates include Solo-Ngawi in Central Java and Surabaya-Mojokerto in East Java.
"Only the toll roads in Greater Jakarta [were not as busy]," Donny said in a virtual talk on Monday. "The trans-Java toll road has risen above the forecast, perhaps due to a switch from airplanes and trains to cars. So, traffic on the trans-Java has returned to its normal level, even slightly above it."
The toll road operator has seen a less than 5 percent fall in revenue from the February level, far less severe than the 60 percent fall seen in the March-May period, Donny said. "So, we're almost back to normal."
Jasa Marga's toll road revenue, which contributes to most of its earning, has fallen by 15 percent year-on-year (yoy) to Rp 6.25 trillion (US$443.1 million) as of September, a financial report published on the company's website shows.
Its overall revenue fell by 50.2 percent to Rp 10.5 trillion in the first nine months of the year, from Rp 21.1 trillion last year.
Meanwhile, the Jakarta administration's large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) have also reduced vehicle traffic on the city's toll roads, with offices and schools urged to operate remotely to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
"The issue was the policy, which forbade people from going outside," said Donny. "Traffic picked up after the PSBB relaxation."
Jakarta, the first national epicenter of the pandemic, started imposing PSBB measures on April 10. The Jakarta administration recently extended a looser, transitional PSBB period from Dec. 7 until 21.
The curbs in Jakarta had led to a more than 40 percent drop in the number of people going to workplaces in April from the January-February level, according to mobility data from Google. The movement trend to workplaces has not returned to pre-pandemic levels since.
Toll roads connecting people to airports such as the 10-kilometer Nusa Dua-Ngurah Rai-Benoa toll road in Bali was also hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, in line with the slump seen in tourism, according to Jasa Marga group head of corporate finance Eka Setya Adrianto.
Tourism has been among the hardest-hit sectors during the COVID-19 outbreak. According to Statistics Indonesia (BPS), the number of foreign tourists arriving from January to September fell by 70.57 percent yoy to 3.56 million visitors.
With the decline in traffic, the toll road operator's net profit fell to Rp 157.6 billion in the January-September period this year, an 89.5 percent plunge from the same period in 2019.
"For our net income, we cannot expect it to significantly grow amid a declining toll [road] revenue, especially in the second and third quarters, when the decrease was quite significant," Eka said. "So, we will see. The least we can do is maintain a positive performance in the fourth quarter."
With the pandemic battering its financial health, the toll road operator reduced its capital expenditure by Rp 2 trillion and operational expenditure by Rp 500 billion earlier this year.
"Next year, our capital expenditure may be very low as some toll roads have been completed. But with some toll roads delayed to next year, like JORR 2, it may stand between Rp 5 trillion and Rp 6 trillion," said Eka, referring to the Jakarta Outer Ring Road project.
Next year, the company is set to develop a total of around 70 km in toll roads, the largest project being the 33.12-km Balikpapan-Samarinda Section I and V toll road in East Kalimantan. Sections II to IV began operating in June this year.
Jasa Marga stated in August that it would not start a new construction project at least until 2023, as the company shifted its focus to optimizing revenue from existing toll roads.
The company operating new toll roads this year, including the Pandaan-Malang toll road section V in East Java and Manado-Danowudu toll road in North Sulawesi.
According to the company's data, Jasa Marga operates a total of 1,191 km in toll roads across Indonesia.