South-east Asia's first high-speed rail project in Indonesia is 64% completed

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Railway developer PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (KCIC) said it has completed 63.9 per cent of construction on the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail (HSR), overcoming delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The tunnel drilling for South-east Asia’s first HSR project has reached 74.94 per cent completion, KCIC president director Chandra Dwiputra in a statement on Tuesday (Dec 15).

KCIC has wrapped up the drilling of a tunnel, called Tunnel 1, which spans 1.8km and is located under the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road that connects Jakarta with Bekasi in West Java.

The most recent tunnel drilling completion rounds up the number of finished tunnels to five, Mr Chandra said.

“With this tunnel completion, our tunnel drilling work progress has reached 74.94 per cent of the total train tunnel length of 16km,” he said.

The company aims to complete the drilling of two other tunnels over the next two months.

KCIC, the project’s contractor which will later operate the line, is a consortium of Indonesian state-owned enterprises under PT Pilar Sinergi BUMN Indonesia and China’s rail companies under Beijing Yawan HSR.

The US$6.07 billion (S$8 billion) HSR will link Indonesia’s biggest city Jakarta and its fourth-largest city, Bandung.

Travel time between the two cities on the 142.3km line will take just 45 minutes – compared to five hours or more by road – carrying 601 passengers on each trip. The existing railway line takes about three hours to traverse the two cities.

The HSR is expected to travel at speeds of up to 350kmh, with two stops between Jakarta and Bandung.

Before the pandemic struck the country, construction of the railway had faltered because of various challenges.

The Public Works and Housing Ministry demanded that the project’s construction be halted for two weeks in March, citing the project’s poor drainage system that caused flooding on the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road.

The project also faced land acquisition issues, among others.

President Joko Widodo had floated the idea of involving Japan, which had been outbid by China in the HSR project, as the government reviewed the prolonged delays and budget overruns in construction.

These challenges, on top of the pandemic, then caused KCIC to push back its completion and operation target to the second half of 2021 from the initial target of June 2021.

KCIC’s Mr Chandra said that for the elevated structure of the railway, the company had erected 1,741 piers.

Meanwhile, more than 12,000 rail rods measuring 50m each are in the process of being shipped in stages from China, he added.

State-owned construction firm PT Wijaya Karya, which owns the majority stake in Pilar Sinergi BUMN Indonesia, said the project had fallen short of its 70 per cent completion target for this year.

“There were many obstacles, one of them being the pandemic,” Wijaya Karya corporate secretary Mahendra Vijaya told The Jakarta Post via text message on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Coordinating Maritime and Investment Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said the HSR project is important, as it marks a turning point in the modernisation of Indonesia’s public transportation system.

“(The project) could be the modern mass transportation system that could solve our mobility needs,” he said in a statement.

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