Indonesia gets its first high-speed train, a $7,3 billion project

The first high-speed train in Indonesia / Photo EPA-EFE/ADI WEDA

Indonesia has opened its first high-speed rail, a $7,3 billion project backed by China under its Belt and Road Initiative.

President Joko Widodo launched the service, which connects the capital Jakarta with Bandung, a top economic hub. The railway is named Wush, an acronym in Bahasa Indonesia that translates to time saving and reliability. Widodo prioritized projects like Wushu to ease the country's heavy traffic congestion.

The Indonesian president at the launch of Indonesia's first high-speed train / Photo EPA-EFE/ADI WEDA

The railway was originally scheduled to open in 2019, but was delayed due to land disputes, the pandemic and a $1,2 billion budget overrun. Monday's inauguration was pushed back from Sunday to accommodate Jokowi's schedule.

Wushu is operated by PT KCIC, a joint venture made up of four Indonesian state-owned companies and Beijing China Railway International. The train can reach a speed of up to 350 km/h with a journey covering 142 km.

Indonesian officials say the high-speed rail is expected to improve economic productivity. They also highlight the fact that the trains are powered by electricity, which will help reduce the country's carbon emissions, reports BBC.

First high-speed train in Indonesia / Photo EPA-EFE/ADI WEDA

Bandung, the capital of West Java province, is considered Indonesia's answer to Silicon Valley. There are negotiations to expand Wush to Surabaya, a major port city and capital of East Java province.

Some critics say the sheer cost of the project could affect Indonesia's public finances, which are already strained by the pandemic. Jokowi agreed to use state funds to help the project overcome delays.

The project is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's 10-year Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious plan to connect Asia with Africa and Europe through a series of land and sea networks through investment in local infrastructure.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy, is actively seeking investment from China, its largest trading partner.

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