- Written by Derek Kaye
- BBC News, Singapore
Indonesia has opened its first high-speed railway, a $7.3bn (£5.9) project backed by China under its Belt and Road Initiative.
President Joko Widodo launched the service linking the capital, Jakarta, to Bandung, a major economic centre.
The railway is called Whoosh, an abbreviation in Indonesian that translates to time saving and reliability.
Mr Widodo has prioritized projects such as Whoosh to ease the country’s severe traffic congestion.
The railway was originally scheduled to open in 2019 but was delayed due to land disputes, the Covid-19 pandemic and a $1.2bn (£984m) budget overrun.
Monday’s inauguration was postponed from Sunday to accommodate Mr. Jokowi’s schedule.
Whoosh is operated by PT KCIC, a joint venture made up of four Indonesian government companies and China Railway International in Beijing.
Its name is an abbreviation of “Waktu Hemat, Operasi Optimal, System Handal”, or “Time Saving, Optimal Operation, Reliable System” in the local language. It can reach speeds of up to 350 km/h (217 mph) and has a flight range of 142 km.
Indonesian officials say the high-speed rail line is expected to improve economic productivity. They are also touting the fact that the trains are electric, which will help reduce the country’s carbon emissions.
Bandung, the capital of West Java province, is described as Indonesia’s answer to Silicon Valley.
Talks are underway to extend WASH to Surabaya, a major port city and capital of East Java province.
Some critics say the massive cost of the project could affect Indonesia’s public finances, which are already under pressure due to the pandemic. Mr. Jokowi agreed to use state funds to help the project overcome the delay.
The project is part of the Belt and Road Initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping 10 years ago, an ambitious plan to connect Asia with Africa and Europe through a series of land and sea networks through investments in local infrastructure.
Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia, is seeking investments from China, its largest trading partner.
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