Indonesia prepares to launch its first high-speed rail line

BANDUNG, Indonesia — Indonesia is preparing to launch Southeast Asia’s first high-speed rail service that will cut travel time between two cities from the current three hours to around 40 minutes.

The railway line, which connects Indonesia’s capital Jakarta and Bandung, the populous capital of West Java province, is part of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

As the Jakarta-Bandung part of the railway project neared 90% completion, Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited Tegalluar station in Bandung on Thursday – one of the railway’s four stations – where eight wagons and a train of inspection arrived from China at the beginning of September were parked. .

“We hope that with the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed train, the mobility of goods and people can be faster and better, and our competitiveness will also be stronger,” Widodo told reporters during the visit.

Widodo also expected high-speed rail to benefit other sectors.

Earlier reports said Widodo would invite his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to ride the China-made high-speed train after the Group of 20 largest economies summit in Bali next month. However, Widodo told reporters on Thursday that the plan is still being discussed with Xi and “it’s still not final yet.”

The cars were designed and built by the Chinese railway company CRRC Qingdao Sifang. The September delivery was CRRC’s first high-speed train export under its 11-train contract for KCIC400AF eight-car trains and a KCIC400AF-CIT inspection train. The contract, worth $364.5 million, was awarded to CRRC in April 2017.

Construction of the rail line which began in 2016 was originally scheduled to start operating in 2019 but was delayed until June 2023 due to disputes involving land purchases and environmental issues.

The 142.3-kilometre (88.4-mile) $7.8 billion railway is being built by PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia-China, or PT KCIC, a joint venture between an Indonesian consortium of four state-owned companies and China Railway International Co. Ltd. joint venture said the trains will be the fastest in Southeast Asia.

The CRRC said the KCIC400AF train can reach speeds of up to 350 kilometers (217 miles) per hour, pass curves with a minimum radius of 150 meters (492 feet) and is fitted with electric motors, each with a power of 625,000 watts. The cars will be divided into three classes: VIP, first and second, and several cars with large spaces between the seats will be allocated to passengers with reduced mobility.

The manufacturer said the trains are specifically modified to suit Indonesia’s tropical climate and are equipped with an enhanced safety system capable of tracking earthquakes, floods and other emergency conditions. The length of the eight-car train is 208.9 meters (685.3 ft).

The rail deal was signed in October 2015 after Indonesia chose China over Japan in a tender and was financed with a 75% loan from China Development Bank. The remaining 25% is the consortium’s own funds.

The project is part of a 750-kilometre (466-mile) high-speed train plant that would cross four provinces on the main island of Java and end in the country’s second-largest city, Surabaya.

Improving infrastructure, Widodo’s flagship policy, helped him win a second term in the 2019 elections.

The Jakarta Metro – a Japanese-backed venture – was inaugurated in 2019 as part of the capital’s efforts to ease traffic congestion. Its second phase will soon be completed and the UK and Japan have offered the country soft loans for its third phase, Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said.

The government has completed other rail projects, including light rail services in Palembang and Jakarta, while five other cities, including on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, have LRT plans in the works.


Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.

Jose P. Rogers