Lights out for Indonesia's LRT just days before Asian Games

Officials were forced to acknowledge a series of “shortcomings” with the LRT, seen as a key to avoiding traffic snarls in Palembang.

Traffic commutes next to the site of the under construction LRT (light rapid transit) in Jakarta.   -  AFP

Indonesia is investigating a series of malfunctions that have plagued its first light rapid transit (LRT) system just days out from the opening ceremony of the Asian Games, the transport ministry said Monday.

The LRT in the city Palembang -- which is co-hosting the Games with Jakarta -- needs to be operating smoothly as thousands of athletes, officials and visitors arrive this week for the start of the world's biggest multi-sport event behind the Olympics.

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Indonesia has set aside worries about terrorism, street crime, venue completion and Jakarta's notorious traffic, saying it is ready to roll for the August 18-September 2 Games.

But officials on Monday were forced to acknowledge a series of “shortcomings” with the LRT, seen as key to avoiding traffic snarls in Palembang on Sumatra island.

A short circuit knocked out power to a portion of the transit system Sunday, halting trains and forcing passengers to disembark between two stations.

Just days earlier passengers had to endure long delays due to signals interference, which caused the temporary suspension of services, local media reported.

“The government will immediately evaluate the whole operation of the South Sumatra LRT,” said Zulfikri, director general of railways at the transportation ministry.

“(We) hope this evaluation will provide a solution that will improve the overall operation of the LRT,” added the official, who like many Indonesians has only one name.

Jakarta and Palembang will host about 11,000 athletes and 5,000 officials from 45 Asian countries for the Games.

Indonesia had less time to prepare than most host countries after it only agreed four years ago to host the games when Vietnam pulled out.

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