Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – Jakarta's Light Rail Transit (LRT) system has once again sparked controversy due to criticism regarding design flaws and the presence of 31 trainsets with varying specifications. This has added to a myriad of issues plaguing the LRT project, which has the potential to further postpone the planned commercial operation start date of August 18, 2023, and escalate the project's financial cost.
Deputy State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Kartiko Wirjoatmodjo (Tiko) pointed out the design flaw in the LRT's long-span bridge connecting Jl. Gatot Subroto to Jl. HR Rasuna Said in Kuningan, South Jakarta. He noted that the curved railway track is not wide or inclined enough, forcing the trainsets to move slower when crossing the bridge.
Tiko also revealed that the 31 LRT trainsets, which are manufactured by PT Industri Kereta Api (INKA) and have signalling software provided by Siemens, all have different specifications. These specification disparities have hindered the precise alignment of the train doors with the platform, prompting Siemens to undertake significant and costly software adjustments.
Tiko criticized the lack of coordination among key players that has existed since the project's inception: PT Adhi Karya as infrastructure developer, PT INKA as the train manufacturer and Siemens as the software provider.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo dismissed Tiko's criticism, saying that the Jakarta LRT project was a national achievement, with most of the work done by local players. Flaws and deficiencies have been corrected along the way, and the President instructed his ministers to ensure the safety of the passengers and therefore prolong the testing period. Jokowi's instructions ultimately pushed back the LRT commercial operation date (COD) of August 18 to the end of the month.
This delay, however, is short compared to previous setbacks. Land acquisition issues at several operational points caused the COD deadline to be postponed from late 2021 to August 2022. Furthermore, the collision between two LRT trains during equipment testing in October 2021 further pushed back the COD to August 18, 2023. Now, it is once again being pushed back, this time to the end of this month. Some people question whether the LRT will even be ready by then.
The deviation from the COD target has resulted in a larger financial burden for the LRT project, which is to connect Jakarta with Bekasi in the east and Bogor and Depok in the south. Initially estimated at Rp 23 trillion (US$1.5 billion), the project's investment cost has surged to Rp 32.5 trillion. This figure does not yet encompass the subsidies that the government will provide to prevent the LRT from operating at a loss once commercially operational. The financing scheme has also undergone changes. While initially intended to be solely funded by the state budget (APBN), SOEs have been compelled to share the financing burden through investments indirectly supported by state capital injection (PMN) and guarantees.
In response to the sharp criticism from Tiko, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir clarified that his deputy's intention was to emphasize that the long-span bridge section of the LRT track is intricate and therefore requires improvements. These enhancements were already underway before the start of the trial phase. Erick further explained that ongoing adjustments are being made by Siemens, the software provider, to ensure seamless alignment between the train doors and station doors.
Meanwhile, Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono refuted claims of design deficiencies in the LRT long-span bridge. He contended that the present design had passed safety evaluations conducted by the Long-span Bridge and Tunnel Committee (KJPT). The existing long-span design has been deemed appropriate as it is constructed on a thoroughfare surrounded by high-rise buildings. Should a more expansive curvature be adopted, as suggested by Tiko, the surrounding buildings would need to be demolished, which would further inflate the cost.
What we've heard
Several sources within the government have conveyed that the critiques articulated by Deputy State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Kartika "Tiko" Wirjoatmojo, regarding the Greater Jakarta light rail transit (LRT) project had been influenced by the tension evident in his relationship with SOEs Minister Erick Thohir.
This strain has been incited by the structural changes within the SOEs Ministry that have transpired since the arrival of Rosan Roelani. Instead of replacing Pahala Mansury as Deputy SOEs Minister I, Rosan has instead assumed the position of Deputy SOEs Minister II, which Tiko has occupied thus far. Concurrently, Tiko has now become the Deputy SOEs Minister I, the position previously held by Pahala.
However, Tiko has made a substantial effort to address numerous issues related to the remaining transportation projects left behind by the previous SOEs minister Rini Soemarno. These projects include the LRT and the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed train. Unfortunately, these initiatives were undertaken without thorough feasibility studies and careful planning.
SOEs Minister Erick Thohir has also been recognized as having a closer affinity with Rosan as both individuals received their higher education in the United States. Additionally, SOEs Minister Erick is also speculated to be preoccupied with positioning himself as a prospective vice-presidential candidate in the upcoming 2024 elections. Should Erick ascend to the vice presidency, Rosan is touted as the likeliest successor to the position of SOEs Ministry.
On the other hand, the LRT project's design has encountered issues since its inception. Another source indicated that the foundational support pillars were initially intended to be positioned elsewhere. However, the placement of these pillars supporting the elevated rail tracks was chosen due to the contractor's desire to avoid incurring additional costs for land acquisition around the intersection of JL. Gatot Subroto and Jl. Rasunan Said. As a result of this misalignment in foundation pillars, the elevated rail tracks exhibit a pronounced incline.
A consultant has pointed out that, referring to the Crossrail study documents from the United Kingdom, the optimal completion of the new LRT safety system is projected for October 2023, and the system integration is anticipated to conclude by March 2024. Under this scenario, Crossrail suggested that the Greater Jakarta LRT commence operations no earlier than February 2024, much later than the government's target operation date of August 2023.
[This content is provided by Tenggara Strategics in collaboration with The Jakarta Post to serve the latest comprehensive and reliable analysis on Indonesia's political and business landscape.]