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Cars and TransportationIndonesia

Indonesia launches Southeast Asia's fastest train

October 2, 2023

The high-speed rail cuts travel time between two major Indonesian cities from about three hours to 40 minutes. The line was largely funded by China and was originally meant to begin operations in 2019.

The 209-meter train has a capacity of 601 passengers
The 209-meter train has a capacity of 601 passengersImage: Willy Kurniawan/REUTERS

​​Southeast Asia's fastest train route was officially opened in Indonesia on Monday.

The key project under China's Belt and Road initiative connects Indonesia's capital Jakarta to Bandung, the heavily populated capital of West Java province. 

The project was largely funded by China and cost $7.3 billion (€6.9 billion). With speeds of up to 350 kph (217 mph), the bullet train cuts travel time between the two big cities from three hours to about 40 minutes. 

But the train, called "Whoosh," had been beset with delays and increasing costs. The 142-kilometer (88.23-mile) rail was first meant to be launched in in 2019.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo launches the China-backed high-speed railway
Indonesian President Joko Widodo launches the China-backed high-speed railwayImage: Willy Kurniawan/REUTERS

Indonesian president inaugurates train

Despite criticisms of high costs and doubts over commercial benefit, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has championed the project.

"The name is inspired by the sound of a rushing high-speed train," Jokowi, as the president is popularly called, said during the launch.

He said the train with its high speed was "the modernization of our mass transportation that is environmentally friendly."

Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for maritime and investment, said China Railway has agreed to transfer its technology to Indonesia so high-speed trains can be made domestically.

A Chinese-made bullet train 

The project, largely funded by China, was constructed by PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia-China, known as PT KCIC.

PT KCIC is a joint venture between an Indonesian consortium of four state-owned companies and China Railway International Co. Ltd.

The rail deal was signed in October 2015 after Indonesia selected China over Japan following a fierce bidding war.

It was financed with a loan from the China Development Bank for 75% of the cost. The remaining 25% came from the consortium's own funds.

Indonesia broke ground on the project in 2016, and it was planned to cost 66.7 trillion rupiah ($4.3 billion), but the amount grew to 113 trillion rupiah ($7.3 billion).

The project faced problems ranging from land procurement issues to pandemic-related delays.

rm/ab (Reuters, AP)