The China-backed Jakarta-Bandung fast train project reached an important milestone on Tuesday with the completion of the Walini Tunnel, the first of 13 underground passages along its track.
The 608-meter tunnel in West Bandung district, West Java, is arguably one of the most complicated parts of the project, having taken 120 construction workers more than 15 months to complete. The completion marks key progress in the project, which has been years behind schedule since President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced the plan in 2015.
The government now expects construction on the Jakarta-Bandung fast train to be completed by the end of next year.
“In accordance with President Jokowi’s direction, this project aims to unravel the [population] densities of both Jakarta and Bandung to create new economic centers and encourage economic equality. We are optimistic that this project will run well and if we can finish it by the end of 2020, it will be the first fast train in Southeast Asia,” State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno said in a statement.
“I will continue to oversee the project and ensure it runs well,” Rini said.
The minister, accompanied by Chinese Ambassador Xiao Qian and West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil, attended a ceremony celebrating the tunnel breakthrough on Tuesday.
The $6-billion project is part of Jokowi’s infrastructure ambitions. Land acquisition problems and changing development blueprints had delayed the project, initially set to start commercial operations this year.
Indonesia and China created joint venture Kereta Express Indonesia China (KCIC), which includes several state-owned companies from both sides. The China Development Bank committed $4.5 billion in loans for the project.
KCIC managing director Chandra Dwiputra said the company is focusing on completing the remaining tunnels, considering the level of difficulty and time needed to complete them.
Chandra said construction of the Jakarta-Bandung fast train project is about 17 percent complete, but that work continues at various points to reach the 60 percent completion target by the end of this year.