The Jakarta Post
August 3, p8
I am a resident of Jakarta concerned about the development of infrastructure in Indonesia, particularly the plan to develop the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway.
I am fond of high-speed railways, but in my opinion, we needn't rush to build the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway this decade. It's too expensive and the maintenance is too complicated for Indonesian standards, and we already have plenty of adequate modes of transportation to connect these two adjacent cities. (By Calvin Ho, Jakarta)
To me, several hours of journey by Parahyangan train on historic railway tracks built by the Dutch in early 1900s, or by bus on the newly built Cipularang Highway, are no problem at all because it is so entertaining. We can sit back and relax while enjoying the spectacular scenery of the Parahyangan highlands. Why don't we reallocate the budget to develop a railway system in Papua or Kalimantan?
It is better to allocate that money to develop ports, rail stations, etc. Or even build a rail network on other islands, and provide better infrastructure there. Don't just focus on Java alone. You could improve current airports on other islands with that money as well. For too long, infrastructure development in this country has been focused only on Java.
Ignatius Jonan himself said that he didn't want to build any high-speed railway routes when he was CEO of PT KAI and that he would prefer to build more conventional railway networks outside of Java. Talk is cheap, minister.
It's sad that our government is repeating the same old mistakes from the Sukarno era. We haven't learned how to build a country, we are just very proud of ourselves and want to have some excellent projects, but we don't have the ability to create it on our own.
A high-speed railway project is nonsense for Indonesia. It will be a useless investment, especially if we only connect Jakarta and Bandung.
Most of the people of Indonesia will be very happy when they can depart and arrive on time as scheduled. Some parts of the EU are still not connected by high-speed trains traveling at more than 250km, which is slow compared to the Japanese bullet train, or China's high speed network.
Does it matter to most of us? No, but we do care that there are alternatives, like excellent intercity highways or affordable flights that depart and arrive on time. Indonesia is not ready for high-speed rail, because of the high maintenance cost involved and the inevitable corruption.
For a Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway route, the total cost is estimated to be around Rp 18 to 50 trillion. Such a big investment could build the above mentioned cheaper KTM ETS Malaysian railway network across the archipelago. Our network already lags behind the Malaysian counterpart.
Do our government officers understand this?
I note the 60 minutes trip from Jakarta to Bandung with your above mentioned model of train. It's only 30 minutes slower than the pace of a high-speed train. 30 minutes is not a big deal, and Jakarta to Bandung will connect limited cities.
Jakarta to Surabaya would be 4 hours via high-speed train, and it would connect more cities like Cirebon, Tegal, Semarang and Tuban.
High-speed rail is a very good project, we can't deny this. But I agree we needn't rush to build it this decade because many things should be done before we undertake this expensive project. Instead of high-speed railways, the government must improve old train stations. I respect PT KAI for its astounding achievements in the late five years but why should we rush? Is it all about national pride? Think again!
We should not follow other countries' development history because we have our own characteristics that differ from the well-known characteristics of punctuality and discipline that mark countries like Japan, China or Germany.
A cheaper version of high-speed trains like you have mentioned in Malaysia is more suitable for our situation, considering the relative obsolescence of our railway systems.
Even Australia and the US don't have the so-called high-speed trains.
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