The Jakarta Post
Japanese bullet trains may hurtle across Indonesia's main island of Java in about a decade, covering the 150km distance between Jakarta and Bandung in under one hour, if a study slated to begin in January finds it feasible.
Officials hope the trains can also connect Jakarta and Surabaya, which are 730km apart, in less than three hours.
The Indonesian and Japanese governments have agreed to conduct a detailed feasibility study on adopting Japan's Shinkansen high-speed rail technology here, Deputy Transport Minister Bambang Susantono told The Straits Times.
It will be funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which provides technical assistance to developing countries.
"A feasibility study with a grant from JICA will be done in two stages, the first from January to November 2014, and the second from January 2015 to June 2016," Susantono said.
He did not elaborate, but the study is expected to assess a viable route, passenger demand, and ways to secure funding for a line between Jakarta and Bandung, the country's largest and third-largest city respectively.
The Straits Times understands that JICA has been preparing for the start of the feasibility study, but the agency's Indonesia office said it was too early for them to comment as details are being discussed.
JICA is already helping to finance part of Jakarta's MRT project.
The latest development comes weeks after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a pitch for Japanese technology in a speech to regional CEOs in Bali on October 7, at a time when China is also wielding its infrastructure know-how in the region.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Jakarta early this month, China Communications Construction Company signed an agreement with Jakarta Monorail to build trains and lines for a 30km two-line network.
But Japan has repeatedly expressed interest in developing a high-speed rail network in Indonesia.
A November 2012 report of an initial study prepared by Japanese consultants for the Japanese government on the Jakarta-Bandung route noted that the Shinkansen's earthquake detection technology would be valuable in earthquake-prone Indonesia.
Kyodo News Agency recently reported that the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail project is worth some 50 trillion rupiah (US$4.55 billion).
Traffic volume between the two cities is growing rapidly, with many of the capital's residents visiting the cooler, hilly city of over two million on weekends and holidays. But it currently takes three hours to travel by train along the Dutch-built line to Bandung, whose railway station was first built in 1884, because the tracks wind around mountainous areas.
The earlier study recommended that trains travel at a gradient of some 30 per cent through new tracks in a tunnel. It also projected some 57,000 passengers might take this train daily in 2020, going up to 171,000 a day in 2050.
Institute of Transportation Studies executive director Darmaningtyas said detailed studies on land conditions would likely be required for this route, and could slow down its progress.
But he felt demand for a high-speed train to Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, may not be there for some time yet, as double-tracking on the existing line will be completed soon.
"Travel time on regular trains will be cut from 12 hours now to about eight hours (with double-tracking)," he said. "There is also a regular stream of affordable flights between the two cities."
The biggest challenge though, as with other infrastructure projects, is likely to be the slow pace of the country's bureaucracy.
Said Darmaningtyas: "I've been asked about high-speed rail since two years ago. Till today, I have not seen much progress."