Behind the Lines of Indonesia's First High-Speed Railway System
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Behind the Lines of Indonesia's First High-Speed Railway System

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After successfully completing a test run for its first high speed-train linking Jakarta to Bandung, Indonesia is almost close to becoming the first Southeast Asian country with a high speed railway (HSR) in just an hour. This test run completed more than half time taken from a typical two and half hour car journey between the two cities. It is also said that once the train starts running at its maximum speed, which is 385 kmh, 40 minutes will be reduced from the journey’s duration.

In covering top speed in bullet trains, first comes Japan’s Maglev bullet trains which have reached speed of up to 603 kmh. France’s TGV trains at 574.8 kmh, Shanghai Maglev at third place with 460 kmh and Italy’s Frecciargento trains reaching maximum speed at 300 kmh.

The project began in 2016 and after seven years the 142 km long rail project, covering a portion of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has yielded satisfaction for many performance areas including track structure, vibration, traction power supply, communications, and signaling among others.

To ensure safety, the trackers are built with smart sensors, an earthquake monitoring system, as well as other warning and alert mechanisms in place. With the commissioning and optimization of system interactions will ensure that the high-speed railway will meet design requirements. Also, this train is considered to be the most environmentally friendly transport as it is powered by electricity and has no direct carbon emission during operation. This makes the fast and big transport more energy-efficient compared to those of road and air. Even noise pollution is being cancelled by enabling soundproofing even when the train travels at its maximum speed so as to not disturb residents living in areas of its operation.

Construction of the Project

Originally scheduled to begin operation in 2019, the rail line's construction, which started in 2016, was instead postponed until June 2023 due to disagreements over property purchases and environmental concerns. The CRRC Qingdao Sifang railway firm in China created and constructed the train carriages.

PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia-China, or PT KCIC, a joint venture between an Indonesian consortium of four state-owned firms and China Railway International Co. Ltd., is building the 142.3-kilometer railway for a cost of $7.8 billion. According to the joint venture, Southeast Asia's quickest trains will operate there.

The train transaction, which was funded in part by a loan from the China Development Bank, was inked in October 2015 after Indonesia chose China over Japan in a competitive bidding process. The consortium's own money makes up the final twenty-five percent.

The undertaking is a section of a 750-kilometer high-speed train line that will travel through four provinces on Java's main island before arriving in Surabaya, the second-largest city in the nation. In an effort to reduce traffic in the capital, Jakarta opened its subway system in 2019. The project was financed by Japan. According to Indonesia's transportation minister Budi Karya Sumadi, the country has received soft loans from the United Kingdom and Japan for its third phase, which will shortly be completed.

According to the CRRC, the KCIC400AF train has electric motors that have a combined output of 625,000 watts and can travel at speeds of up to 350 km/h through curves with a minimum radius of 150 meters. Three classes of cars—VIP, first, and second—will be used, and several of them will have spacious aisles between the seats for use by those with mobility issues.

 

The train's builder claimed that the modifications were made expressly to help the trains cope with Indonesia's tropical environment and that they also had a better security system that could monitor earthquakes, floods, and other emergency situations. The eight-car train is 208.9 meters long.

Areas that Need to be Repaired

The project is experiencing new difficulties months before it is scheduled to go into operation in August. The Chinese consortium members seek a full operational worthiness certificate for the line despite an unfinished station.

Full-fledged commercial operations might instead begin in January 2024, according to the transport ministry, Mott MacDonald, PwC, and local law firm Umbra.

The intention to begin commercial operations in August may not be achieved by the deadline of December 31.

The project's working capital requirements are also being impacted by the financial reorganization at PT Wijaya Karya Tbk (WIKA), an Indonesian state-owned construction company with an indirect minority share in the consortium. This project has at least US$381.75 million in unpaid invoices.

The company had the resources to complete the remaining work, but it also required payment from the consortium for previously completed work.

With regard to the component of the loan that is in yuan, Indonesia is negotiating with China for a further US$560 million loan and is seeking an interest rate of 2.8% that is lower than the 3.46 percent offered by the China Development Bank (CDB).

Accessibility is Still a Challenge

In addition to making sure the stations are ready, the government also has to make sure the public can utilize them as quickly as feasible. All four stations currently have very restricted accessibility.

Currently, the only means to reach other areas of the city from Jakarta's Halim station is via a lengthy detour on the highway.  During rush hour, commuters trying to reach South Jakarta from the station in East Jakarta, for instance, may be stuck in traffic for up to 1.5 hours, which is roughly twice as long as it takes to go to Bandung by HSR. 

Since one of the stops is close to the HSR Halim station, the Greater Jakarta Light Rapid Transit line will help with the issue to some extent.  Additionally, a shortcut to the station is being constructed so that city buses may access the area. According to accounts, the other three stations in the province of West Java are much more inaccessible. For instance, Karawang station is roughly 30 minutes' drive from a highway exit that is not serviced by public transportation. The West Java terminal station, Tegalluar, is not in the city but rather the Bandung regency.

The quickest route for commuters to get to Bandung city is to get out at the Padalarang station and take a conventional train, bus, or vehicle, which could take at least 20 minutes, depending on traffic.

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