October 14, 2022
JAKARTA – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has said that the high-speed train connecting Jakarta and Bandung in West Java was an investment project and not foreign aid from the Chinese government.
“This is not aid [project]. This is a collaboration between Indonesia and China. There’s an element of investment here, so again, not aid,” President Jokowi told reporters during an inspection of a new railway station for the high-speed train in Tegalluar, on the outskirts of Bandung.
Jokowi also added that the Indonesian government was still in discussion with China over whether Chinese President Xi Jinping could make a stopover for a site visit in Jakarta on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in November.
“Yes, we’re still in a discussion about that,” Jokowi said.
Jokowi also said that the project would boost connectivity between ASEAN countries.
“This will be the first high-speed railway in ASEAN and we hope this will increase connectivity between countries, whether this [railway] will be connected further to an airport or to other high-speed railways,” he said.
The high-speed train, which is part of the Chinese-backed Belt and Road Initiative, is on track to have its launch in 2023, despite a number of setbacks that have caused the budget to overrun.
Undertaken by Indonesian-Chinese consortium PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia China, the high-speed rail project was originally expected to cost around US$6 billion, but the cost has ballooned to around $8 billion after the delays.
Construction began in 2016 and was initially expected to be completed in 2019, but the project ran into problems mostly over land acquisition, delaying its completion several times.
The trains are designed to run on the 142-kilometer line at a maximum speed of 350 km per hour, cutting travel times to about 40 minutes from the roughly 3 hours currently required.
During the site visit, President Jokowi was joined by Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Panjaitan, State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir and Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi.
Jokowi said the project was 88.8 percent complete and could be ready for its commercial launch in June 2023.
The President also added that the high-speed train, once operational, would be a boon for the local economy.
“Our competitiveness will certainly be improved because we will have new points of economic growth in Jakarta and Bandung [municipality], as well as in the Bandung regency itself,” he said.
Critics of the project have said that despite connecting Jakarta and Bandung, many of the stations were located away from city centers.
Two stations in Bandung are actually located in the suburbs of the city, about 30 to 45 minutes away from the city center by car.
In August, a cargo of eight Chinese-made high-speed train cars arrived at a Jakarta port marking the first batch of rolling stock for the first high-speed railway network being built with Chinese technology.
Separately, the Transportation Ministry’s interim Railway Network Director General Zulmafendi said the high-speed train connecting Jakarta and Bandung would be integrated with the existing transportation system in Jakarta.
Zulmafendi said the railway network would join the existing LRT and busway systems in a new transportation hub in Halim, East Jakarta.
“We have thought this through. In the short run it won’t be 100 percent ideal, but I can assure you that although the high-speed train [departs] from out of town, we will make it easy for people to use,” Zulmafendi said as quoted by Antara.