Illustrations. (Photo: Doc. KCIC)

JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Indonesian President Joko” Jokowi” Widodo and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are scheduled to oversee a dynamic virtual test of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway project from Bali on 16 November, coinciding with the G-20 summit on the island.

Indonesia’s state-owned railway operator PT Kereta Api Indonesia (PT KAI) confirmed the trial with the Parliament earlier on 9 November.

PT KAI’s President Director, Didiek Hartyanto said, “The dynamic trial will involve a 20 km trip from Tegal Luar to Cikopo. And the trial will be witnessed by President Jokowi and President Xi Jinping,”

Didiek also added that the progress of the railway’s construction had achieved 79.51 per cent. At the same time, the progress of investment absorption had reached 90.6 per cent.

He expects all construction works would be completed by this year’s end.

Meanwhile, Didiek also revealed several key milestones of the project, including the arrival of 11 sets of eight-cars EMUs (Electric Multiple Units) arrive on 28 February 2023. While all track laying and adjustment are expected to be completed on 21 March 2023.

“The status trial and the completion of system integration will be carried out on 31 March 2023. On 4 April, PT KAI will conduct a commissioning test and an integrated trial,” he stated.

The Jakarta-Bandung bullet train, with a 142-km rail track, is expected to cut travelling time to 36 minutes between the two cities from the original three to four hours.

Four stations will serve as stopping stations: Karawang, Halim, Padalarang, and Tegalluar.

PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (KCIC) is in charge of the bullet train project.

KCIC is a joint venture of the Indonesian consortium, PT Pilar Sinergi BUMN Indonesia, with 60 per cent shareholding, while Beijing Yawan HSR Co Ltd controls the remaining 40 per cent.

The Indonesia Consortium consists of four state-owned enterprises; Wijaya Karya, PT Perkebunan Nusantara VIII, PT KAI, and Jasa Marga.

The Jakarta-Bandung high-speed train is one of the China-funded projects related to the mainland’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — which the recently re-elected Chinese leader, Xi Jinping introduced in 2013 aimed at strengthening Beijing’s economic and political influence through infrastructure funding.

“There are 140 countries receiving infrastructure funding related to the BRI initiative. Indonesia got 72 BRI-related projects worth US$ 21 billion,” Executive Director at Center of Reform on Economics (CORE) Mohammad Faisal spoke in a webinar in 2021

Indonesia chose China instead of Japan – where high-speed trains originated from, due to the mainland’s cheaper investment cost of US$5.6 billion as compared to Japan’s cost of US$6.2 billion.

Mr Mohammad also explains that China had promised the transfer of technology which is hard to obtain from Japan.

Groundbreaking for the project started in 2016, a year after China offered Indonesia a US$50 billion loan package.

The Jakarta-Bandung railway project uses CR400AF, the latest generation of high-speed trains equipped with disaster-monitoring features with a lower maintenance cost.

Despite some controversies surrounding the project, ranging from a swollen budget that forced the government to use the state budget to fund the construction to the delay in the construction of Tunnel 2 due to unstable soil conditions, which is vulnerable to landslides, the fast railway project shows just how important China is to Indonesia in regard to infrastructure investments.

“We have to admit that Indonesia needs cooperation with China as the former’s effort to build infrastructure as highlighted in President Jokowi’s working program,” an international relations expert and lecturer at Budi Luhur University Yusran in an interview with TOC a week ago.

The Jakarta-Bandung bullet train is expected to operate officially in the middle of 2023.

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