JAKARTA, Indonesia - Construction kicked off Thursday in the Indonesian capital for a long-awaited urban railway aimed at staving off crippling traffic gridlock.
Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo presided over a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of the first phase of the 15.7 kilometre (9.7 miles) mass rapid transit line from the southern Jakarta neighbourhood of Lebak Bulus to downtown Jakarta.
"After 24 years of dreaming to have an MRT, some may even have forgotten it," said Widodo before breaking the ground for the first foundation. "Finally the dreams of the Jakarta residents will come true."
Jakarta, one of the largest cities in the world without a subway, has lagged behind other Southeast Asian capitals such as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok in public transport.
It has been predicted that without a major investment in transportation, this Asia megacity with over 9 million inhabitants would be overwhelmed by traffic jams by 2020.
The first phase includes seven elevated and six underground stations estimated to cost $1.5 billion, built by two consortiums of local and Japanese companies. The target date for services to begin is the end of 2016.
The second phase of 8.1 kilometres (5 miles) northward is planned to be completed by 2018, two years ahead of initial target.
"Socialization for a new lifestyle of using mass transportation has to begin right now so that once it is completed, people have been prepared to flock into the MRT and leave their cars," said Widodo.
The project, funded through a loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA, has been planned since the 1980s, but its construction was hampered by political crises, red tape and funding disagreements.
The consortiums include Japanese companies Shimizu Corp., Obayashi Corp. and Sumitomo Mitsui Construction Co. along with Indonesian state-owned companies PT Wijaya Karya and PT Hutama Karya and private firm Jaya Konstruksi.
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