Indonesian President Joko Widodo has become the first passenger to experience Southeast Asia’s first high-speed railway, a key project under China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. The president took a test ride on Wednesday from Jakarta to Bandung, the capital of West Java province, in a bullet train that can reach speeds of up to 350 kilometers per hour (217 miles per hour).
The president said he was impressed by the comfort and speed of the train, which will cut travel time between the two cities from three hours to about 40 minutes. He also praised the project as a milestone for Indonesia’s development and a symbol of cooperation with China.
“This is civilization speed!” Widodo said. “But most importantly, we want to encourage people to switch from cars to mass transportation to reduce congestion and pollution.”
The high-speed railway, which cost $7.3 billion and was funded largely by China, is part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, a global network of infrastructure projects that aims to boost trade and connectivity across Asia, Africa and Europe. The railway is expected to begin commercial operations on Oct. 1 and will have four stations: Halim KCBJ in eastern Jakarta, Karawang in West Java, Walini in West Bandung and Padalarang in Bandung.
The trains were manufactured by China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) and were modified for Indonesia’s tropical climate and seismic conditions. They are equipped with a safety system that can respond to earthquakes, floods and other emergency situations.
The president was accompanied by several ministers, officials and guests during his test ride, including Miss Indonesia 2022 Laksmi Shari De Neefe Suardana, who sat next to him in the train. Chinese Premier Li Qiang also took a test ride on the high-speed rail last week while visiting Jakarta for the East Asia Summit.
The high-speed railway is expected to boost economic activity and tourism in both Jakarta and Bandung, as well as create more than 40,000 jobs during its construction and operation phases. It is also seen as a model for other high-speed rail projects in Southeast Asia, such as those planned in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.