Indonesia is launching Southeast Asia’s first-ever bullet train on Sunday, a high-speed rail service line that will connect two of the country’s largest cities.
Part of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative and largely funded by Chinese state-owned firms, the $7.3 billion project opened to the public on Sunday, following a series of delays and setbacks.
The train will travel between the capital Jakarta and Bandung in West Java, Indonesia’s second-largest city and a major arts and culture hub.
The 86-mile (138-kilometer) high-speed rail line, officially named WHOOSH – which stands for “time saving, optimal operation, reliable system” in Indonesian – runs on electricity with no direct carbon emissions and travels at a speed of roughly 217 miles per hour – cutting travel time between Jakarta and Bandung from three hours to under less than an hour, officials say.
Overseen by the joint state venture PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (PT KCIC), the train travels between the Halim railway station in East Jakarta and Padalarang railway station in West Bandung, and is well connected to local public transport systems.
The trains, modified for Indonesia’s tropical climate, are equipped with a safety system that can respond to earthquakes, floods and other emergency conditions, officials added.
There are talks to extend the high-speed line to Surabaya – a major port and capital of East Java Province, PT KCIC director Dwiyana Slamet Riyadi told Chinese state media outlets at a ceremony earlier in September.
Stops at other major cities like Semarang and Yogyakarta, the gateway to Borobudur – the largest Buddhist temple in the world – are also being planned, Dwiyana said.
According to information released by PT KCIC, the railway features eight cars – all equipped with Wi-Fi and USB charging points – and seats 601 passengers.
There will be three classes of seats – first, second and VIP.
Indonesia, the world’s fourth-largest country and Southeast Asia’s largest economy, has been actively and openly courting investment from China, its largest trade and investment partner.
A high-profile meeting in July between Indonesian and Chinese leaders Joko Widodo and Xi Jinping unveiled a series of projects, including plans to build a multi-billion dollar Chinese glass factory on the island of Rempang in Indonesia’s Riau Islands Archipelago as part of a new ‘Eco-City,’ sparking weeks of fierce protests from indigenous islanders opposed to their villages being torn down.
Widodo and Chinese Premier Li Qiang were photographed taking test rides on the new high-speed railway throughout September.
The train deal was first signed in 2015 as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and construction began later that year.
It was initially expected to be completed in 2019 but has faced multiple operational delays as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as land procurement and ballooning costs.
PT KCIC’s director Dwiyana hailed the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway as an “outstanding example of bilateral cooperation between Indonesia and China.” It will not only improve Indonesian infrastructure but “promote the development of Indonesia’s railroad and manufacturing industries,” he said.