Indonesia lauds landmark BRI project

By MA CHENGUANG and ZHUANG QIANGE | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-07 08:53
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A view of a train that runs on the Jakarta-Bandung High-speed Railway, which was jointly built by Chinese and Indonesian engineers. LIU YUCAI/FOR CHINA DAILY

Involving major State builders, Jakarta-Bandung High-speed Railway seen boosting local travel
After his Sept 13 ride on the new Jakarta-Bandung High-speed Railway, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the 142.3-kilometer line, jointly built by Chinese and Indonesian engineers, will boost commerce and tourism by slashing travel time between the two cities from over three hours to just 40 minutes.

Widodo called Indonesia's and Southeast Asia's first HSR project, which opened on Sept 7, the pride of his country's transportation system. As an achievement of the Belt and Road Initiative, the $8 billion project represents the first overseas foray of Chinese HSR technologies and incorporates the whole supply chain.

Linking Indonesia's capital city and the country's fourth-largest city with a maximum designed speed of 350 kilometers per hour for the trains, the HSR was constructed by PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia-China, a consortium involving Indonesia's state-owned firms and China's centrally administered State-owned enterprises.

On Jan 21, 2016, the railway laid the foundation for commencing the project, and full construction started in June 2018. On Nov 16, 2022, it ushered in its successful trial operation.

Successful completion

The Jakarta-Bandung HSR has four newly built stations — Halim Station in Jakarta urban area, Karawang, Padalarang and Tegalluar stations in West Java — and one engine car station.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang rode the HSR between Halim Station and Karawang Station on Sept 6 during his visit to Indonesia, and the 40-kilometer trip took only 15 minutes. Afterward, Li told the Chinese builders to ensure the high-standard opening and high-quality operation of the HSR, which spans nine counties and cities, with an estimated annual passenger flow exceeding 10 million during the first year of operation.

As Chinese HSR's first systemic footprint overseas that incorporates whole supply chains, construction of the Jakarta-Bandung HSR called for full technologies on technical standards, survey and design, engineering construction, equipment manufacturing, materials supply, operation management, talent training and comprehensive development.

China Railway No 4 Engineering Group Co Ltd was one of the builders, constructing 27.55 km of the line, including bridges, Tegalluar Station and Tegalluar engine car station. Chen Yi, chief engineer and chief economist of CREC4's project management department, said the builders faced challenges such as torrential rains, fluctuating weather, and mountains, valleys and complex geological formations along the line.

The total length of the bridges accounts for 61.5 percent, and tunnels extend for 11.7 percent while the roadbed takes up 26.8 percent, Chen said, adding that with numerous parcels of State-owned land, private land and commercial land along the line, several property disputes had to be resolved.

Overcoming difficult excavations and other challenges, the Chinese builders followed the major construction nodes to complete the work. Chen said the most critical job was the installation of box girders, noting that staff members from the CREC4 No 4 beam fabrication yard erected 1,007 of them between Jakarta and Bandung.

The newly built Karawang Station is located in West Java, Indonesia. LIU YUCAI/FOR CHINA DAILY

Training local talent

Considered a synergy between the BRI and Indonesia's Global Maritime Fulcrum strategy, the railway project also required recruiting and training local construction engineers and workers. When Chen became the chief economist of CREC4's project management department, he was told of its firm vision of cultivating local talent to help build the HSR.

During the construction period, CREC4 continued to increase training for Indonesian employees, assisting the host country in building its own HSR construction staff.

With the practical principle of "a Chinese tutor + an Indonesian apprentice", CREC4 builders helped cultivate nearly 10,000 high-speed railway construction technicians for the host side, Chen said.

Adhering to the concept of mutual consultation, construction and sharing, CREC4 builders put great emphasis on sharing their experiences with the Indonesian side, said Han Xinliang, publicity chief of CREC4 First Engineering Co Ltd.

"At CREC4, I have access to advanced Chinese engineering techniques," said Indonesian employee Aldy Raynaldo, adding that "with the Jakarta-Bandung HSR, I believe that Indonesia's infrastructure can be further elevated".

Chen and other Chinese management staff offered the Indonesian workers face-to-face assistance during daytime hours, and at night the Indonesians received training in technical and labor management, data preparation, work acceptance, pricing and document collection. As a result, five local employees gained promotions and 19 others took up engineering and technical positions in Chen's project management department. In total, CREC4 hired over 3,000 local people to work on its project.

A bond between minds

The HSR project facilitates understanding between the Chinese and Indonesian peoples, said Li Jinpeng, a staffer from the No 4 beam fabrication yard of CREC4.

"In the beginning, I was unfamiliar and restrained with my Indonesian colleagues, but with the increase in communications, we came to understand and support each other, and I could feel our friendship blossoming," said Li.

During the construction period, though the work schedule was tight, the CREC4 project management department organized basketball or badminton competitions during holidays and festivals in an effort to ease homesickness and offer a chance for Indonesian employees to experience Chinese culture.

"Although we come from different countries and have different cultures, I feel particularly happy to spend holidays together like family members," said Marissa, an interpreter at the No 2 division of CREC4 project management department. "To ensure the smooth progress of the HSR, many of our Chinese colleagues were unable to return home for family reunions. They have a strong sense of responsibility, and I appreciate them very much and thank them very much."

Randi Ramdhani, an Indonesian technician from the CREC4 No 4 beam fabrication yard, said he is extremely thankful for China's help in building the HSR in Indonesia, which is bringing great changes to his hometown.

Liu Bo, Party secretary and chairman of CREC4, attended the official launch of the Jakarta-Bandung HSR, feeling proud of his colleagues' contribution to the railway. During his visit on May 14 to Jakarta-Bandung HSR, Han Yonggang, general manager of CREC4, called on his colleagues to strive to make it a strategic pillar and model project for coordinating CREC4's overseas operations.

CREC4 was founded in November 1950 and now has 23,360 employees. In addition to its mammoth domestic operations, the company has ventured into Angola, Ethiopia, Mongolia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Costa Rica and a dozen other countries.

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