Working on a national strategic project with an international team from 14 different countries was not something Frenchsie Duhitadewi could have imagined when she joined SMEC in late 2016.
A civil engineer with a multi-disciplinary background, Frenchsie was attracted to SMEC because of its international project scope. Less than six months after starting her role, she was packing her bags and relocating to South Sumatra, Indonesia, where she would spend more than two years working on a project identified by the government as a national and strategic priority – Indonesia’s first Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, the Palembang LRT.
“I was eager to work on the project site as this is a great opportunity to learn from actual project conditions, and SMEC provided me with all the support I needed,” she says.
SMEC was appointed in March 2017 to supervise construction of the Palembang LRT, on the back of our broad global portfolio and project experience in rail systems.
“With the culture of continuous improvement and knowledge transfer that we have at SMEC, we continue to learn from previous projects and always look for innovations we can implement on the next project”
A team of close to 100 SMEC staff, including local and international specialists, were absorbed by the mammoth project, especially when construction had to be accelerated so the LRT could begin operations in June 2018 ahead of the Asian Games 2018. Palembang had been selected to co-host the Asian Games with Jakarta, held for the first time in Indonesia since 1962.
“We worked to a compressed timeframe to meet this critical milestone,” says Frenchsie. “I think it really helped that everyone was united by the same vision, monitoring progress and communicating regularly, and making safety the highest priority. We also had strong support from the government which was very significant to our achievements.”
The Palembang LRT connects the Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II International Airport with the Jakabaring Sports Centre. It covers 23.4 kilometres of track and includes 13 stations, 9 substations and a depot.
Rather than the traditional process of undertaking feasibility studies followed by detailed design and construction, the project was delivered under a design and build contract. This posed some unique challenges, including limited availability of design data, delays in procuring equipment and getting station access, and interfacing between stakeholders and contractors during construction.
“Teamwork was essential to overcoming these challenges and finding practical solutions. Our teams worked to ensure coordination and a shared vision between the suppliers, contractors, operators and all the stakeholders involved. This required effective communication – discussing issues as they arose, a willingness to listen and understand stakeholders’ motivations, and finding solutions based on consensus,” Frenchsie explains.
“The approach was an outstanding success, with representatives of the Directorate General of Railways (DGR), Ministry of Transportation, concluding that “SMEC’s work has been of a high standard, well planned and implemented through the initial design work, assisting the Client with administration procurement issues and then with construction management, safety and supervision tasks.”
The project team leveraged SMEC’s international expertise in design review, identification of cost savings and faster construction through value engineering to provide significant cost reductions. The multi-disciplinary team were able to fast-track design and construction of critical components, including the bridge over the Musi River, LRT stations, railway system and the depot. Operation began in mid-2018, after which the remaining works were completed, and the project formally closed in May 2019.
“SMEC’s work has been of a high standard, well planned and implemented through the initial design work, assisting the Client with administration procurement issues and then with construction management, safety and supervision tasks.”
– Representatives of the Directorate General of Railways (DGR), Ministry of Transportation
In addition to supporting access to the 2018 Asian Games, the Palembang LRT provides much-needed relief from congestion for both locals and visitors to Palembang.
“Traffic congestion is a daily headache for many Indonesians, “says Adrian Chandra, Director PT SMEC Denka Indonesia. “We’re proud to have made a significant contribution towards a solution by delivering the Palembang LRT, which reduces travelling time between the airport and the sports centre by 35-40 minutes.”
Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country, with 268 million residents and counting. Given the high density of its cities and the constraints posed by its island geography, the Indonesian government faces considerable challenges connecting residents and visitors to an integrated transport network.
Frenchsie firmly believes that the future of transportation in Indonesia lies in a reliable mass public transport system.
“It was an honour and privilege for me to work on the Palembang LRT. It really broadened my understanding of large-scale transport infrastructure projects and how to work with people from different cultural backgrounds, contractors and clients.”
Frenchsie says she’s now looking forward to sharpening her skills even more and contributing her newly gained technical and project knowledge to the next challenge. “With the culture of continuous improvement and knowledge transfer that we have at SMEC, we continue to learn from previous projects and always look for innovations we can implement on the next project.”
Palembang is the first of more LRT projects planned or underway in Indonesia. Construction is progressing on the LRT Jabodebek which will connect Jakarta and its commuter suburbs from 2021. The government is also considering plans for LRT networks in other large cities including Bandung, Medan and Surabaya.