At One Million Passenger Trips, Indonesia’s First High-Speed Rail Surpasses Expectations


The market for high-speed rail (HSR) has spoken, with the Jakarta-Bandung HSR handling more than one million passenger trips since its official operation on 17 October.

The rapidly rising passenger flows have prompted the authorities to increase the train services to 48 trips per day, from the previous 14.

It may be recalled that Indonesian President Joko Widodo inaugurated he first bullet train in the country — and Southeast Asia — on 2 October, one day later than the previously anticipated 1 October.

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The 142-kilometre (88.23-mile) high-speed track, stretches from Jakarta to Bandung, the West Java provincial capital and a popular tourist destination, cutting down travel time from two to three hours by conventional railway, to just 40 minutes using the bullet train. The entire route has four stations, with the maximum operating speed reaching 350 kilometres per hour.

Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway (HSR)
Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway (HSR)

The project is part of China’s Belt and Road Infrastructure Initiative (BRI) and was built under the Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (PT KCIC) consortium, which comprises four Indonesian state-owned companies and China Railway International, a subsidiary of China Railway Group.

The high-speed train is named “Whoosh” derived from the Indonesian phrase “Waktu Hemat, Operasi Optimal, Sistem Handal,” translating to “timesaving, optimal operation, reliable system”.

However, the total cost for the Jakarta-Bandung route has surpassed initial estimates, ranging between $7.2 billion to $7.5 billion instead of the originally projected $5.5 billion. This has led Indonesia to dip into state coffers to cover the additional expenses.

Beset with delays and escalating costs, concerns have been raised regarding commercial benefits of the high-speed rail project.

Nevertheless, the impressive record-breaking ridership numbers are likely to alleviate these doubts for the time being, undoubtedly enhancing the prestige of the high-speed rail project — a key initiative for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.