Jakarta is one of Asia’s most traffic-clogged and poorly planned cities. As part of the urban transformation of Jakarta, work has already begun on a new subway network.

Construction works on Phase I of the mass rapid transit (MRT) project started in 2013 with the help of international and local partners. This phase was commissioned in 2019 and has already exceeded one of its targets of serving 65,000 passengers per day. PT MRT Jakarta (Perseroda) has initiated implementation of the subsequent phases to tackle Jakarta’s severe traffic congestion.

Southeast Asia Infrastructure takes a look at the progress made by the MRT project, current practices being followed for tunnelling works, challenges faced, steps taken amidst the Covid-19 outbreak and the way ahead…

MRT Jakarta’s journey so far…

The MRT development plan in Jakarta was initiated way back in 1985. However, the MRT project was declared as a national project only in 2005. Following this, the financing agreement for the project was signed between the Indonesian government and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) on November 28, 2006. As per the agreement, JBIC was to design and provide study recommendations to the DKI Jakarta Provincial Government. Later, JBIC was merged with the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The MRT project is being implemented in a phased manner. Phase 1 involved the construction of a 16 km stretch from the Lebak Bulus terminal to the Hotel Indonesia roundabout, with 13 stations and one depot. To minimise the environmental impact of Phase I, PT MRT Jakarta (Perseroda) undertook an environmental impact assessment study in addition to cooperating with a traffic management consultant.

As per the schedule made by JICA and PT MRT Jakarta, the technical design and land acquisition were to have been carried out in 2008-09, the construction tender and the tender for electrical and mechanical equipment were to be issued in 2009-10, and construction work was to begin between 2010 and 2014. However, owing to some delays, the project design was carried out in 2008-09; and the construction phase was started in October 2013 and completed in March 2019.

Phase 2A will extend the route further by 6.3 km from Bundaran HI to Kota. This line will be built completely underground. Currently, the tender for the selection of the contractor has been issued. Phase 2B will extend the route by another 6 km from Kota to Ancol Barat. The feasibility study is currently under way for this phase. Meanwhile, the preparation of basic engineering design for Phase 3 (Kalideres-Ujung Menteng; 31.7 km) and Phase 4 (Fatmawati-TMII; 12 km) is in progress.

Current practices for tunnelling works

MRT Jakarta Phase 1: An earth pressure balance tunnel boring machine (TBM) was deployed for Phase 1 of the project due to its suitability in areas with clay soil conditions. The TBM deployed for the project was developed by Japan Tunnel Systems Corporation and weighed 323 tonnes. The tunnel passed through under Kanal Banjir Barat (Jakarta Flood Canal). The TBM was carefully controlled by monitoring the earth pressure on the TBM face and excavated soil volume. In addition, ground movement was monitored and site investigation (topographic survey data) was also carried out to confirm that the tunnelling had no impact on the river structure.

In order to ensure accuracy in tunnelling alignment, prism targets were installed at multiple points in the TBM shield machine, allowing the total station (an electronic/optical instrument used for surveying and building construction) to automatically survey these targets. This, in turn, enabled the calculation of the TBM angle against the tunnel alignment in real time via the shield tunnelling sites (tunnelling shield is a protective structure used during tunnel excavation).

MRT Jakarta Phase 2: The various challenges that are likely to be faced during the construction of Phase 2 of the project include its proximity to a canal and narrow construction space; the need to divert utilities; construction in a heritage area; close proximity to two national landmarks (Bank Indonesia near Sarinah station and the Presidential Palace near Monas-Harmoni station); and excavation through soft soil and land subsidence; among others. Further, the ground-level design along the Harmoni-Kota stretch needs to preserve the cultural identity of the surrounding area.

These issues were addressed by identifying adjacent structures, investigating the site, analysing ground movement, introducing protection measures for the tunnel, establishing a risk management plan and ensuring proper monitoring. Besides, as per the project plan, the Station Harmoni-Mangga Besar stretch is positioned under Jalan Gajah Mada near Kali Batang Hari. The entrance corridor will cross under Kali Batang Hari. Hence, in view of the limited construction space available, it has been decided to construct a four-storeyed stacked station at Sawah Besar and Mangga Besar.

Covid-19 prevention and digital transformation

PT MRT Jakarta has made all efforts to minimise the impact of Covid-19 on construction activities. The various measures undertaken at the project site include taking the temperature of all personnel twice daily before they enter the site area, routine checking of proper PPE including mask; minimising interaction between teams; providing handwashing facilities and hand sanitisers at the project site, etc. Furthermore, the health facility at the project site and office is equipped with oxygen tubes, blood pressure meter, thermometers and basic medicines. This facility is being handled by a certified paramedic.

After experiencing several issues with a non-automated working process during Phase I, several digitalisation initiatives have been introduced in the second phase of the Jakarta MRT project. “Building Information Modelling” (BIM) will be implemented as it offers integration of activities, enables prompt response to changes in the project and provides greater project insight. In addition to making the coordination process between the organisations more effective, BIM will pre-empt the possibility of clashes in the work process at the design stage itself, standardise business processes for all parties including document and asset naming, enhance traceability and accountability, ensure interoperability of all project information and ensure working on one data platform.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has led to the introduction of digital initiatives. In particular, the TBM being used in the project will undergo a factory acceptance test through online inspection instead of being physically inspected in China.

The road ahead

In a country where owning a private vehicle is perceived as a symbol of social status, a transformation project like the MRT Jakarta could take some time to materialise. Nevertheless, the implementation of such a project to mitigate traffic woes in the largest city in Southeast Asia and one of the fastest growing economic centres in the world cannot come soon enough. Going forward, the Indonesian government plans to expand railways of MRT Jakarta up to 231 km in the next 10 years. Currently, Phase 2B, Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the MRT Jakarta projects are at various stages of planning, offering numerous opportunities to tunnel contractors.