Jakarta to start building long-awaited metro this year

The Indonesian capital Jakarta will soon start construction of a metro system to try to unravel its infamous traffic jams, 26 years after the idea was first mooted, officials said Monday.

The city administration and the central government finally agreed last week on how to split the cost, with 49 percent to be paid by the central government.

The city initially wanted to pay 42 percent of the cost but finally agreed on 51 percent, said Eko Hariyadi, a Jakarta administration spokesman.

Hariyadi said construction would start this year, pending an announcement of the winner of the tender.

Two consortia of Japanese and Indonesian construction firms, Obayashi-Shimizu-Wijaya Karya and Sumitomo-Hutama Karya, are competing for the work.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency has agreed to give a soft loan for the first stage of the long-awaited project, which will cost 15.7 trillion rupiah ($1.63 billion) and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016, said Sutanto Soehodho, deputy governor for transportation and macro economy.

The city has spent nearly three decades discussing the merits of different mass transport systems to alleviate congestion in greater Jakarta, home to 20 million people.

Poor infrastructure is one of the main constraints on the growth of Southeast Asia's largest economy, experts say. It was hit by serious floods last week.

One thousand new vehicles hit the roads daily in the capital and it could face complete gridlock as soon as next year unless traffic problems are addressed, according to a study by the private Indonesian Transportation Society.

Its chief Danang Parikesit said even the metro would not be the "silver bullet" to solve Jakarta's traffic problems.

"Other projects should be done as well to really address the transportation system," he told AFP.

Jakarta is one of the last major cities in Asia without a metro. Singapore inaugurated one in 1987, Manila in late 1984 and Bangkok in 2004.

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