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Economy

Indonesia's first subway makes its debut in congested capital

16 km line from southern Jakarta to city center to cut travel time in half

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (right) shakes hands with Governor of Jakarta Anies Baswedan during the launch of the Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit (MRT).   © Reuters

JAKARTA -- Indonesia inaugurated its first mass rapid transit line Sunday, amid hopes that the new trains will help alleviate serious traffic congestion in the capital.

A roughly 16 km section between southern Jakarta and the city center, which partly travels underground, will begin full operations Monday. The $1.5 billion project was expected to slash travel time in half, with the hour-long journey by car cut to about 30 minutes.

Financed by yen-denominated loans from Japan, the MRT was one of President Joko Widodo's pet projects while he was governor of Jakarta.

"I'm happy that MRT has been received enthusiastically," Widodo said at the inauguration ceremony. "I hope that many people will use it."

Widodo used the ceremony to stump for next month’s presidential election. At one point, he asked those in attendance to point up with their index fingers, alluding to his number one position on the ballot.

Riders will be able to use the MRT for free through the end of this month, part of an effort to promote its use. The fare, which will be charged from April 1, has not been disclosed because the Jakarta provincial government is still deciding how much to subsidize the cost.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the second phase, an extension to the north by about 8 km, was also held Sunday. Plans call for the MRT project to also include an east-west line spanning roughly 32 km that will provide access to industrial parks in the suburbs.

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