Indonesia is set to open the first high speed train link in an ASEAN country by June 2023, linking the capital Jakarta to Bandung, a major metropolis in the province of West Java. Both cities will only be a 40 minute train ride away from each other compared to the current journey time of three and a half hours.

Indonesia is ready to celebrate a major infrastructure achievement in 2023. The country hopes to inaugurate the first high speed train service between the capital Jakarta with Bandung, the third largest city in the country. Although the cities are just 142 km away from each other, it currently takes over three hours to commute between both.

Once the high speed train service is up and running – by next June according to the plan – both metropolises will be a mere 40 minute train ride from each other. Indonesia’s high speed rail link will be the first of its kind in Southeast Asia to reach a speed of 250 km/h.

Indonesia high speed train: from Bandung to Surabaya?

Although the Jakarta-Bandung high speed train has been plagued with delays and ballooning costs – the original launch was planned for 2019 while costs went from $6.5 to $8 billion (€5.6 bn to €7.5bn). During an event at the China Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia in October, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister of Investment and Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, explained that the high speed railway remains an important project despite the difficulties it has faced. The train link will also help lure international travellers to the province of West Java.

Bandung will be only 40 minutes by high speed train from Jakarta from 2023 (Photo: Art Deco style West Java Governor’s office in Bandung-Photo: LC/Cleverdis)

Indonesia is even looking to extend the high speed rail link to Surabaya, the country’s second largest city. Initially attributed to Japan for a semi-fast train link, it seems that extending the Jakarta-Bandung line to Surabaya would now make more sense as it would help make the high speed link economically more viable. Another semi-fast train service is planned from Surabaya to the north of the country.

Extending the project to the far east of Java would also help to connect other important Indonesian cities such as Yogyakarta and Surakarta in Central Java before reaching Surabaya. If built, the total trip between Jakarta and Surabaya would be reduced from over 10 hours to just four.

“If the government continues the line to Surabaya,” Binsar Pandjaitan added, “it will make the cost of Indonesia transport more efficient,” stressed .

Thailand to follow Indonesia

With this project, Indonesia will lead Southeast Asia into a new high speed rail era. Other projects in the region such as the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail link have so far been put on hold. While the first high speed rail project linking Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima and Udon Thani and Vientiane in Laos, has encountered years of delays.

The first past of Thailand‘s new high speed train is due to open in 2026. It will link Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima in an hour. The second phase – to the Laotian border – is planned to begin in 2028. Another high speed train project is due to link Bangkok Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports with stops in Bangkok City and an extension to Pattaya and U-Tapao airport. Initially planned to open in 2026, Thailand’s second high speed rail line is likely to be delayed.

Cambodia also wants to join the high speed rail community. The Kingdom’s prime minister Hun Sen recently announced its plans to develop a high speed train linking Phnom Penh to the port city of Sihanoukville in the South with further expansion planned to the border to Thailand. The project would be financed and constructed by China.

Currently, Southeast Asia’s fastest train services are the KL Airport Expres and the Vientiane-Boten rail line in Laos. The first one has a stretch of 57 km while the second one crosses Laos along 422 km. Both however have a maximum speed of 160 km/h which is short of being officially qualified of “high-speed rail service”.

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