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Analysis: Freshly launched, LRT already grappling with operational glitches

Jakarta Post - September 6, 2023

Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – After several delays and subsequent controversies, the Greater Jakarta LRT finally commenced official commercial operations on Monday. Within three days of operation, however, the LRT has encountered a series of issues, including train delays, train door malfunctions and sudden power outages leading to abrupt train stops. These operational problems have added to an array of controversies that have clouded the development of the LRT.

Inaugurating the Greater Jakarta LRT, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo personally took a ride on the train from Harjamukti Station in Depok to Cawang Station in South Jakarta. Jokowi was accompanied by Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan. The President expressed his pride in the fact that the national achievement was now operational and available for the benefit of people commuting to Jakarta.

Transportation Minister Budi Karya highlighted that the LRT was now connected with various other modes of transportation in and around the capital city. These included the Commuter Rail Line, the Transjakarta Bus system and even Microtrans, all operating within the JakLingko integrated transportation network. Furthermore, there are plans to eventually integrate the LRT with the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway.

The LRT serves commuters in Bogor, Depok and Bekasi traveling to and from Jakarta via 18 stations. This network encompasses two travel routes: the Cibubur Line and the Bekasi Line. During its full operational hours, the LRT is available for travel from 5:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. To bolster public enthusiasm for the LRT, the government introduced a promotional fare of Rp 5,000 for all routes. But this promotional fair will last until the end of September. After that, the LRT fare will comprise of a Rp 5,000 basic fare plus Rp 700 per kilometer of the trip.

People responded enthusiastically to the LRT launch, with thousands of commuters packing the LRT trains. The initial excitement among the public to experience the LRT, however, has been replaced by disappointment. On Wednesday, for example, thousands of passengers on the Bekasi Line were held up for almost an hour due to an LRT train door malfunction before the affected train was moved to the depot for service. On the same day, again the Bekasi Line LRT trains suddenly stopped on the way due to an electricity supply problem.

Disappointed passengers expressed their anger on social media, making the issue viral, prompting PT Kereta Api Indonesia to make an apology. These operational disruptions were not entirely unforeseeable. Earlier in August, Deputy State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Kartiko Wirjoatmodjo (Tiko) warned about the specification discrepancies between the 32 trains produced by state-owned PT INKA and the software developed by Siemens AG. Also, various technical issues, including recurring power supply interruptions, had already been highlighted during internal technical trials.

What's more

In just three days of operation, the previously acclaimed Greater Jakarta LRT has encountered a range of disruptions. Passengers first experienced the issue of train delays on Tuesday, just one day after the launch. PT KAI attributed these delays to significant gaps in train arrival times, with intervals of up to 20 minutes.

On Wednesday, the LRT encountered further problems. LRT trains departing from Bekasi to Jakarta repeatedly came to unexplained halts. After a five-minute journey, passengers who boarded at Jatimulya Station were disembarked at Cikunir 2 Station. Subsequently, the LRT remained stationary for an extended period at that location over a technical error with a malfunctioning door. Consequently, passengers had to be transferred to another train, enduring an approximately 40-minute wait for the replacement train to arrive.

Also on Wednesday, another challenge encountered by the Bekasi-line LRT was a power outage at the Traction Power Supply Substation (TPSS) in Halim, East Jakarta, causing an abrupt halt in the entire Greater Jakarta LRT's operation. Social media platforms were flooded with complaints from passengers trapped inside LRT trains and passengers waiting at the LRT stations.

PT KAI confirmed the disruptions experienced by the Bekasi-line LRT and stated that the trains with malfunctioning doors had been moved to the depot for evaluation by PT INKA, while PT Adhi Karya had been called in to investigate problems with the TPSS in Halim. Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said he would summons all parties responsible for LRT operation – PT KAI, PT INKA, PT Len Industri and Siemens AG – to prevent further problems.

What we've heard

Several sources within the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Ministry have pointed out that the operational disruptions in the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system are primarily due to the lack of integration in the LRT signaling system. This integration is critical given that the LRT trains operate without human conductors.

The difficulty in integrating the signaling system, developed by Siemens, stems from the varying specifications of each train. This has caused the LRT trains at that time to have trouble stopping accurately at the station platforms.

The German company Siemens has raised objections concerning the discrepancies in the specifications of the locally manufactured LRT trains from Madiun. It's worth noting that each set of driverless train cars must align precisely with the station gates and doors. This issue has also sparked rumors that Siemens, the contracted party responsible for software development, has put forth a more advanced signaling system that outperforms the current LRT signals.

[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.]

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2023/09/06/analysis-freshly-launched-lrt-already-grappling-with-operational-glitches.htm