Jakarta to Bandung in one hour: Indonesia’s new high-speed train completes first trial run

An inspection train preparing to depart for the first trial run of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail, in Jakarta's Halim Station, on May 23. ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA
Workers checking an electronic system at the Tegalluar station of the China-made high speed railway connecting the capital city of Jakarta with Bandung, in Bandung, West Java, on May 15. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Indonesia’s first high-speed train linking capital Jakarta and Bandung – the country’s fourth-most populous city – completed a trial run at 180kmh on Monday, reaching its destination in just an hour.

The first of a series of comprehensive trials that will see rail speeds gradually rise to 385kmh in the coming weeks, Monday’s train ride already more than halved the typical 2½-hour car journey between the two cities.

The duration of the journey by rail will be further reduced to about 40 minutes once the train starts running at its maximum speed. The start of commercial operations is slated for August.

Construction of the 142km-long railway project began in 2016. It forms part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and makes Indonesia the first South-east Asian nation to have a high-speed railway.

Monday’s comprehensive trial run used an inspection train. It involved inspection of the performance of track structure, vibration, traction power supply, communication and signalling works, and other systems. They all displayed good performance.

The Straits Times, Jakarta-based KompasTV and Xinhua News Agency were invited to be on board the inspection train. The maximum technical speed is said to be 385kmh, and the final trial runs within three weeks are expected to achieve it.

Japan’s Maglev bullet trains have clocked speeds of up to 603kmh. France’s TGV trains follow at 574.8kmh, and Shanghai Maglev comes third, hitting speeds of 460kmh. Italy’s Frecciargento trains reach a maximum speed of 300kmh.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo plans to launch the commercial operations of the train on Aug 18. The railway track is equipped with smart sensors, earthquake monitoring capabilities and an early warning system.

“By commissioning and optimising the system interactions, we can ensure that the entire high-speed railway meets the design requirements,” Mr Chen Dongsheng, a senior engineer at the National Engineering Research Centre, said on board the inspection train.

He added: “Jakarta-Bandung HSR (high-speed rail) is driven by electricity and has no direct carbon emissions during operation. It is fast, has a big capacity, and is more energy-efficient compared with road and air transport. Therefore, it is the best and most environmentally friendly travelling mode.”

Mr Kartika Wirjoatmodjo, a deputy to Indonesia’s State-Owned Enterprises Minister, said separately on board the train: “We discussed with our Chinese counterparts and (we were told) all went well – from the train set, wheels and rail traction to communications, signalling and power supply.

“All were inspected and all were good at this speed (180kmh).”

There is, however, some “homework” needed to protect the railway track in areas prone to external interference such as landslides – reinforcement in those areas is required for further mitigation, Mr Kartika pointed out.

He also said soundproofing is being beefed up so that when the train travels at the maximum speed, it will not cause nuisance to those residing in areas it moves through.

An executive from Indonesia-China railway developer joint venture Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (KCIC), who was also on board for the trial run, said the railway track was protected by strong fences as well as beefed-up police and military security.

“We are also telling residents living on both sides of the track that they cannot play with kites or release animals from cages,” he said.

Mr Kartika added that the high-speed rail service will open up a number of new economic zones along the Jakarta-Bandung corridor, spurring development of residential areas and other crowd centres.

“We are on track to have the high-speed rail inaugurated for commercial use on Aug 18, simultaneous with our LRT (Light Rail Transit that will serve Greater Jakarta),” Mr Kartika told ST.

Indonesia’s first high speed train (upper right) linking Jakarta and Bandung, and the LRT (lower left) serving Greater Jakarta will be commercially launched simultaneously in August. PHOTO: ALDI PUTRA PRATAMA

Indonesian state companies, including rail operator KAI and construction company Wijaya Karya, control 60 per cent of KCIC, while China Railway Engineering Corporation and other Chinese companies hold the remaining stake.

The total projected cost of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail was initially estimated at US$6 billion (S$8 billion), but Jakarta said in 2022 that an additional US$1.2 billion was needed to meet the deadline for a commercial launch by June 2023.

Originally set to be operational by 2019, the project had faced problems with land acquisition and construction delays due to Covid-19.

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