On Monday, Indonesia opened Southeast Asia’s first high-speed railway, a multibillion-dollar project that had been delayed and was supported by China. President Joko Widodo lauded the train as “a symbol of our modernization.”
The “Whoosh” bullet train, with a top speed of 350 km/h (220 mph), travels in 45 minutes from Bandung to Jakarta, the nation’s capital.
Previously, the 140 km trip would have taken roughly three hours by train.
“The Jakarta-Bandung high-speed train marks our efficient, friendly, and integrated mass transportation system,” Widodo said during a ceremony at the capital’s central station.
“It is a symbol of our modernisation in the public transport, seamlessly connecting with other modes of transportation.”
According to Widodo, the 600-person train was Southeast Asia’s first high-speed rail system.
It is a component of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, an infrastructure-focused program with a ten-year history.
The president said the name was actually an acronym, standing for a tagline of “Waktu Hemat, Operasi Optimal, Sistem Handal” — which in Bahasa Indonesia means “Saving time, optimal operation, reliable system”.
It was constructed by PT KCIC, a consortium made up of Beijing’s China Railway International Co. and four state-owned businesses from Indonesia.
Initially, the project was expected to cost less than $5 billion and be finished in 2019.
Costs, however, increased as a result of delays brought on by the Covid-19 outbreak and building issues.
Officials have conducted open trials for the new high-speed road in advance of its opening.
Last Monday, Budi Karya Sumadi, the minister of transportation, said that the government would extend the high-speed train line from Bandung to Surabaya, the second-largest city in the nation.
Earlier this month, Senior Minister Luhut Pandjaitan traveled by train with Chinese Premier Li Qiang as part of his trip to Jakarta for summits with Southeast Asian leaders.
Pandjaitan did not provide any additional information when he informed reporters on Thursday that Widodo intended to invite the Chinese President Xi Jinping to ride the train in the future.