Two foreign workers killed in accident at high-speed railway project

While the identities of the victims were not specified, the police said that the two casualties were Chinese nationals who had been working on the project.

Fikri Harish and Adi Marsiela

Fikri Harish and Adi Marsiela

The Jakarta Post


Workers stand beside an Electric Multiple Unit high-speed train for a rail link project part of China's Belt and Road Initiative, at Tegalluar train depot in Bandung, West Java province, Indonesia, October 13, 2022. (Reuters/Yuddy Cahya Budiman)

December 20, 2022

JAKARTA – Already beset by a ballooning budget and missed deadlines, the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway project (KCJB) suffers another roadblock as a work train involved with the project careened off the railway, killed two foreign technical workers and injured several others on Sunday evening.

In a written statement received by The Jakarta Post, PT. Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (KCIC) corporate secretary Rahadian Ratry confirmed that the incident occurred at around 5 p.m. on Sunday in Cempaka Mekar village, Padalarang, West Bandung regency, West Java.

“KCIC has been coordinating with relevant parties in dealing with the incident, and we’ve been cooperating with the authorities’ investigation into the matter,” Rahadian said on Monday.

Formed as a joint venture between a consortium of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and several Chinese-railroad companies, KCIC is overseeing the construction of the high-speed railway.

Transportation Ministry spokesperson Adita Irawati said that the Sunday incident has killed two people. “From the latest report, there’s been a total of six victims so far. They include two casualties, two persons who were seriously injured and two others suffering from minor wounds,” Adita said in a press release.

While the ministry did not specify the identities of the victims, Padalarang Police chief Comr. Darwan Hasan said that the two casualties were Chinese nationals who had been working on the project.

Missed deadlines

Sunday’s tragedy is the latest in a long list of problems that have plagued the ambitious high-speed railway project. While the government initially set a budget of US$6 billion for the project, Didiek Hartantyo, president director of PT Kereta Api Indonesia, which is part of the KCIC, said in November that the cost had ballooned to the tune of $7.5 billion.

Originally set to be operational by 2019, problems with land acquisition and the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic meant that the completion date had to be pushed back. During a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 Summit last month, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo set a deadline of June 2023 for the completion of the project.

But, following Sunday’s incident, the Transportation Ministry ordered work on the project to be put on hold pending investigation.

“Once the investigation is finished, we’ll compile a recommendation that could be used as a guideline on how to improve safety on railway-construction projects,” Adita said.

While KCIC earlier said that construction would continue as planned, Rahadian later clarified to the Post that the company would abide by the ministry’s instructions.

Transportation observer Aditya Dwi Laksana of the Indonesian Transportation Society (MTI) said that a deadline extension was necessary in this case.

“In my opinion, [this incident] stems from the fact that [KCIC] is desperately trying to meet the June 2023 deadline,” he said. He cited other past incidents, including a pillar that fell on top of an excavator in December 2021, as evidence KCIC had been overlooking safety procedures to speed up work on the project.

Despite these setbacks, however, the government has revealed their ambition to extend the high-speed railway all the way to Surabaya, East Java.

While the longer distance could make better use of the high-speed train compared to the short current route, Aditya warned the government against overextending itself.

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