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Indonesia’s Inaugural High-Speed Railway: Whoosh, a Belt and Road Initiative Project

Indonesia has recently inaugurated its first high-speed railway, a project valued at $7.3 billion, supported by China as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. President Joko Widodo officially launched this service, which connects the capital, Jakarta, to the economically significant city of Bandung. The railway, aptly named “Whoosh” in Bahasa Indonesia, which translates to time-saving and reliable, aims to alleviate the country’s severe traffic congestion issues.

Originally planned to open in 2019, the project faced delays due to land disputes, the Covid-19 pandemic, and a budget overrun of $1.2 billion. President Widodo rescheduled the inauguration from Sunday to Monday to accommodate his schedule.

Operated by PT KCIC, a joint venture between four Indonesian state companies and China Railway International, Whoosh stands for “Waktu Hemat, Operasi Optimal, Sistem Handal” in the local language, emphasizing timesaving, optimal operation, and a reliable system. It can reach speeds of up to 350km/h (217mph) and spans a distance of 142km.

Officials in Indonesia anticipate that the high-speed railway will enhance economic productivity, with the added benefit of reducing carbon emissions as it operates on electricity. There are discussions about extending the Whoosh line to Surabaya, a major port city and the capital of East Java province.

While some critics raise concerns about the project’s substantial cost potentially straining Indonesia’s finances, President Widodo agreed to allocate state funds to mitigate delays. This project is a significant component of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative, aiming to connect Asia, Africa, and Europe through extensive infrastructure investments.

Indonesia, as Southeast Asia’s largest economy, has actively sought investments from its largest trade partner, China, further strengthening their economic ties.