Bandung’s bullet train set to drive Java’s economic growth

Kereta Cepat Indonesia China corporate communication manager Emir Monti speaks to Malaysian members of the press. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Ian McIntyre, June 23, 2024.

THE operator of the region’s first bullet train – Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (KCIC) – expects many Malaysian visitors to Indonesia to benefit from its newly launched service.

Unveiled last September, the express service is now ever popular as it cuts the travelling time from the Jakarta metropolis to Bandung City in West Java from five hours via road to just 30 minutes.

Bandung City has two million dwellers while the province of West Java as a whole has about 50 million residents.

With Bandung expected to grow in stature as Indonesia’s primary tourism enclave other than Bali, the bullet train is expected to drive the economic growth of Java, said KCIC corporate communication manager Emir Monti.

Monti said that the service now has about 15,000 to 16,000 passengers daily with 30 different service times.

The Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway (HSR), the first of its kind in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, has set a target to serve 31,000 passengers daily, he noted.

A sizable number of passengers are Malaysian trade visitors and tourists who want to experience the speedy service.

It also cuts the travelling distance by more than half, Monti said.

The service is called the Whoosh train due to the incredible speed of travelling at 350km per hour, he told a delegation of Malaysian journalists, travel agents and influencers.

The delegation was visiting Indonesia on the behest of the Penang-based Indonesian consulate’s trade and economics division.

KCIC is a joint venture consortium between Indonesian and Chinese state-owned firms that constructs and runs the HSR. Despite initial delays, it was on track to mark the end of the Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s (Jokowi) term in office.

Monti said that construction began in 2018 and by 2022, they were doing the test runs.

There are now plans for the service to be extended to popular isle getaway Bali, which is separated by the Bali Straits by 1.6km.

But it first needs to be extended to Surabaya in East Java, which is about 800km away.

Monti acknowledged teething issues but stressed that for any infrastructure project, it is best to complete it as early as possible in view that any delay would cause the costs to spiral upwards.

Whoosh is part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative to connect Asia better physically.

The rail line had faced delays ranging from land procurement issues to pandemic-related delays, which caused costs to balloon.

Welcoming Malaysian tourists

Meanwhile at Bandung, its tourism official Sastie Yustia Dewi said that Malaysians ranked as among the top inbound tourists to the city, but the provincial capital is getting too congested.

Bandung is renowned for its cheap apparel, especially batik and souvenirs.

Dewi said that the tourism planners in West Java are now collaborating with their Malaysian outbound specialists to devise packages for exploration beyond Bandung.

She cites Cirebon City and Ciboer Pass where Malaysians can access Sundanese culture and food other than the Javanese elements largely available in Jakarta.

The packages can also encompass the sea and mountain range.

Dewi said that her office is looking to improve connectivity, saying that both Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia are now flying to Kertajati International Airport in West Java.

The delegation was also hosted by the West Java minister in charge of tourism Benny Bachtiar, who spoke of the need to foster closer ties in view that Malaysia and Indonesia are in the position to solidify the Asean grouping strength as a regional bloc.

He told the Penang-based Indonesian diplomat Aryadi Ramadhan that the services sector between both nations can be boosted by cementing greater ties with Malaysia.

Bachtiar said that West Java can offer affordable tourism attractions to Malaysians.

Rooms at five-star properties there cost as low as RM170 per night on average. – June 23, 2024.

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