The world’s first Southeast Asian bullet train has been inaugurated by Indonesia. Reducing the 140km three-hour journey from Jakarta to Bandung to just 45 minutes, the train was officially launched by Indonesian President Joko Widodo at Jakarta’s Halim station, in front of an audience of dignitaries, officials, ministers and journalists.
The Jakarta-Bandung high-speed train is the first high-speed train in Indonesia, and the first in Southeast Asia, with a speed of 350 kilometers per hour.Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia
Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s Maritime and Investment Minister acknowledged the project’s partners, including the Chinese government by name, saying there had been “good teamwork from all parties” to bring the infrastructure to fruition.
Meanwhile PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia-China’s (PT KCIC) director Dwiyana Slamet Riyadi called the project an “outstanding example of bilateral cooperation between Indonesia and China”, expressing confidence that it marked not only an infrastructure development but an economic one that would “promote the development of Indonesia’s railroad and manufacturing industries”.
Local public transport systems are well served by the trains, which have been adapted for Indonesia’s tropical climate, carrying safety systems that “can respond to earthquakes, floods and other emergency conditions,” according to officials. The train can take 601 passengers and carriages offer WiFi and charging facilities.
Running on electricity with no direct carbon emissions, the train is nicknamed “Whoosh”, an acronym for “Waktu Hemat, Operasi Optimal, Sistem Handal” (Bahasa Indonesian for “Saving time, optimal operation, reliable system”).
Delays and setbacks
The train has not, in fact, “whooshed” into existence. What President Widodo has called a “symbol of our modernisation” has been dogged by delays and setbacks, as well as rocketing costs. Originally budgeted at less than US$5 billion and slated for completion by 2019, building problems and Covid-19 issues saw costs spiral to US$7.3 billion.
The companies behind the construction have also faced land procurement issues and protests from communities who oppose the destruction of villages and territory.
After the construction, by the four Indonesian state companies and Beijing’s China Railway International that make up PT KCIC, public trials for the new high-speed route were carried out.
A high-speed extension to the route, from Bandung to the country’s second-biggest city and capital of East Java Province, Surabaya, which is also a major port, has now been confirmed by Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi.
Other major cities like Semarang and Yogyakarta, the Borobudur and home to the world’s largest Buddhist temple, are also in the pipeline, according to Dwiyana.