High-speed rail plan hits another snag
Nani Afrida and Ina Parlina
The Jakarta Post
Following the Transportation Ministry's refusal to issue a building permit for the construction of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, the project has hit another snag, as lawmakers urged the Air Force not to give up its land for the ambitious project.
Following reports that the construction of Southeast Asia's first high-speed railway would require land belonging to the Halim Perdanakusuma airbase in East Jakarta, lawmakers from House of Representatives Commission I overseeing defense and foreign affairs called on the government to review the project.
It was reported that one of the railway's stations would be located on land currently within Halim airbase. Besides the one in Halim, the government will also build another three stations along the route, in Karawang, Walini and Tegalluar, near Bandung, all in West Java.
'A military airbase is a vital facility and part of our defense system for Jakarta. It has a jet fighter squadron, military Airbus and the presidential airplane. The base is also part of an integrated defense system [...] so it would be a cause for concern if the land should be given up,' Commission I member TB Hasannudin of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said in Jakarta.
Hasanuddin went on to criticize the Defense Ministry's decision to hand over 49 hectares for the high-speed railway station. He said the ministry was giving too much away.
'The project itself only needs 8 hectares, while the remainder would be used for commercial purposes such as for hotels and shopping malls,' Hasanuddin said.
The senior lawmaker warned the commercial facilities could pose a threat to the military's strategic assets. 'The military airbase and its compound require a security belt, so the presence of hotels and shopping malls nearby would entail security risks to our weaponry and our personnel,' he added.
Hasanuddin suggested the government relocate the railway station from Halim to somewhere like the Cipinang Melayu area, which also has an Air Force asset.
Air Force spokesperson Air Comr. Dwi Badarmanto said the Air Force had handed over a piece of land in Cipinang Melayu for the railway project.
'The railway network will be constructed in another area of Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force base, but it's still our asset,' Dwi said.
He said the relocation was necessary to protect Air Force facilities.
'We have Air Force housing and many other facilities and these should not be relocated,' Dwi said.
The government has launched a joint project with China to build the high-speed rail service, linking Jakarta to Bandung, the provincial capital of West Java.
The groundbreaking ceremony on Jan. 21 was presided over by President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, who signed an inscription on a large stone in Walini.
The project is expected to be completed by 2019.
The high-speed train, running at 350 kilometers per hour, is predicted to take 36 minutes to get from Jakarta to Bandung.
The train will later be integrated with local mass transportation systems such as the Mass Rapid Transit and the Light Rail Transit.
In his effort to ensure the project will proceed without hindrance, the President has said that he is open to suggestions from the public and that he will conduct a regular evaluation of the multibillion-dollar project.
'Since the groundbreaking, there have been some statements by lawmakers and members of the public, both pro and con. Of course the President listens to those suggestions [...] The President will consult relevant ministries regarding such input,' presidential spokesman Johan Budi said on Wednesday.
Johan also maintained that Jokowi would conduct regular evaluations of the progress of the high-speed rail project.
The 142.3 kilometer railway costing US$5.5 billion is being constructed by PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia China, a joint venture between an Indonesian consortium of four state-owned companies and China Railway International Co Ltd.
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