Japan, China railway projects show progress
The country’s ambitious railway projects involving Japan and China in a separate network are seeing light at the end of the tunnel despite a mounting array of challenges and lingering concerns of delays.
For the Japan-linked project, the revitalization of a 700-kilometer railway linking Jakarta and the country’s second-biggest city, Surabaya, in East Java is slated to start in January next year as the Transportation Ministry has selected the type of works and the train system.
Transportation Minister Budi Karya said on Friday that he had opted to revitalize existing tracks rather than lay down new track to allow an upgrade of the system to a semi high-speed railway, which would cut travel between Jakarta and Surabaya by half of the usual 12-hour journey.
“I have opted to use the existing tracks,” Budi said. “In January [next year] we can start the work.”
The revitalization will include the closure of an estimated 1,000 railway crossings along the railway track between the two cities to help prevent the train from slowing down.
Budi also said the government would select diesel-powered trains running at a maximum 160km per hour for their lower costs.
With the specifications, Budi estimated the project to cost less than Rp 80 trillion (US$6 billion), with details of the financing scheme from Japan’s loans to be further explored. Officials have estimated the cost to be even lower at around Rp 40 trillion.
Budi’s firm stance to select the revitalization over new tracks came after a preliminary feasibility study on the project by the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), in cooperation with Japan, suggested the use of new tracks.
The BPPT concluded that it was not possible to use existing tracks to effectively increase the speed of the train, although the cost to create new tracks would be much higher.
The Japanese Embassy’s deputy chief of mission, Kozo Honsei, said the feasibility study was still ongoing between Japan and Indonesia. “I don’t think there is any kind of decision-making [on the design yet] from my point of view.”
The railway is meant to be Indonesia’s gift to placate Japan after it expressed discontent over losing out against China to build Indonesia’s first high-speed train connecting Jakarta with West Java capital Bandung, the country’s fourth-largest city.
In a separate development, the company in charge of the JakartaBandung project, PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (KCIC), said it would finally be able to propose the disbursement of a loan to fund the project with the recent issuance of a location permit from the Jakarta and West Java administrations on July 31 and Sept. 7, consecutively.
The location permit for the estimated $5.9 billion project is among the requirements for a loan disbursement from China Development Bank (CDB), which will cover 75 percent of the project’s cost.
KCIC president director Hanggoro Budi Wiryawan said the location permit would provide legal certainty for the project, including assurance that the land could not be sold to other parties.
“I hope the [loan disbursement proposal] will go on as planned, so we can catch up with the scheduled completion of the project,” Hanggoro said on Friday.
The railway is slated to operate in 2020.