Jakarta-Bandung High Speed railway
Anticipation has been building up for the October launch of the Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Rail line in Indonesia. Image Credit: KCIC

Excitement is building up as Indonesia performs final tests of its first-ever high-speed train ahead of an October 2023 commercial rollout.

The Jakarta-Bandung “bullet train”, will reduce the 3 hours it currently takes to get from the capital to the neighbouring city of Bandung to as little as 36 minutes.

The 350 km/h (220 mph) line is the first high-speed railway in Asean. It is operated by the consortium Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (KCIC).

By comparison, Japan’s bullet train, also known as 'Sinkansen', and France’s TGVs have a top speeds of 320 km/h.

Indonesia high-speed train at Padalarang station in West Java Jakarta Bandung High Speed train
Indonesia's high-speed train at Padalarang station in West Java. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Faster, faster

By design the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail system uses next-generation train with a top speed of 420 km/h. Indonesian authorities, however, will only permit a top speed of 350 km/h due to safety concerns, according to local media.

So far, the train has gone through several speed tests of 350 km/h without any hitches.

Easing congestion

The train is expected to significantly reduce traffic along one of the busiest travel corridors in the world.

Indonesia’s high-speed rail (HSR, Kereta Cepat) — also said to be the first in the southern hemisphere — connects its largest and 4th-largest cities, Jakarta and Bandung, the capital of West Java, a distance of 142.3 kilometres (88.4 miles).

Trial runs

The trainsets are KCIC400AF Fuxing EMU rolling stock. The first trainset was tested on November 16, 2022, at the 2022 G20 Bali Summit.

During the Asean Summit in May 2023, the high-speed rail route between Jakarta and Bandung also conducted test runs.

On June 22, 2023, the train speed reached a maximum of 385 km/h (239 mph) during a test, reaching a maximum of 386 km/h (240 mph).

The line was slated for a "soft launch" this month, to coincide be Indonesia's celebration of its Independence Day on August 17 (Thursday).

Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Train (KCJB)
Name: Kereta Cepat Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Train (KCJB)
Speed: 350 km/h (capable of up to 420km/h).
Distance: 142 km, between the capital Jakarta and Bandung (West Java)
Year started: 2015
Completion: 2019 (original target)
Project cost: $5.5 billion (original), 78 trillion rupiah
Cost overrun: around $1.2 billion (mostly due to land acquisition)
Commercial rollout: October 2023
Builder: PT Kereta Cepat (4 state-owned Indonesian companies and the China Railway International Co. Ltd.)
Train fare: 250,000-300,000 rupiah (estimate, $16.44-$19.72) as per Reuters

The consortium behind the project, however, announced on August 8 that it is conducting some final safety tests. According to BenarNews, the "soft launch" has been postponed until “early September” due to the need for more time to assure the trains’ safe operations.

“As the first high-speed rail link in Asean, operating the train requires very careful preparation. All aspects will be prepared properly to prioritize customer safety,” Eva Chairunisa, spokesperson for the consortium PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (KCIC) was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Post.

Indonesia high-speed train
An Electric Multiple Unit high-speed train for a Jakarta-Bandung rail link project is parked at Tegalluar train depot in Bandung, West Java province, Indonesia, October 13, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

“Every aspect will be well-prepared, with a primary focus on safety and comfort for the high-speed train passengers,” said the KCIC media statement.

“The trial of facilities and infrastructure has been carried out successfully. Currently, PT Kereta Cepat is also ensuring that all supporting operational elements will function properly when the train is operational.”

Full operational launch is scheduled for October 1, Chairunisa told BenarNews. When it rolls out, the KCJB high-speed rail will mark a pivotal moment for Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's infrastructure focus and China's Belt and Road initiative in Southeast Asia.